A film review by Craig J. Koban September 4, 2013
THE WORLD'S END
2013, R, 109 mins.
2013, R, 109 mins.
Simon Pegg as Gary King / Nick Frost as Andrew Knightley / Rosamund Pike as Sam / Paddy Considine as Steven / Eddie Marsan as Peter / Martin Freeman as Oliver / David Bradley as Basil / Bill Nighy as The Network (voice)
Directed by Edgar Wright / Written by Wright and Simon Pegg
me, THE WORLD’S END just may look like another slapstick film about a
pub crawl involving a series of middle-aged buddies trying to reclaim the
glory days of their long lost youth, but about halfway through it throws a
wicked curveball at audiences and takes abrupt tonal and story shifts that
has its second half resembling science fiction films like THE INVASION OF
THE BODY SNATCHERS. It does
all of this while miraculously managing to paint a fairly accurate and
sometimes poignant look at the inherent obstacles that rear their ugly
heads when men try to become kids again.
Trying to re-enact an epic 12-pub crawl from yesteryear in one
night is really, really difficult when most of
the people that populate the establishments are actually robotic duplicates
from outer space.
unqualified WTF quotient for THE WORLD’S END is really, really high, but
only a director of Edgar Wright’s unique skill set can make it all work.
He, of course, previously directed 2004’s SHAUN
OF THE DEAD (which was a subversive take on the whole zombie
apocalypse genre) and 2007's HOT FUZZ
(which riffed on the lame conventions of modern action thrillers), both of
which also starred Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
THE WORLD’S END finishes the director’s self-anointed THREE FLAVORS
CORNETTO Trilogy, named after a special ice cream treat that
managed to make its way – in one form or another – in all three films.
THE WORLD’S END could not be any more different than the previous
two entries in this trilogy, but it certainly shares those other films’
penchant for paying homage to the cinematic antecedents that influenced
them. Like HOT FUZZ and SHAUN
OF THE DEAD, THE WORLD’S END mixes smashingly funny bromantic banter,
zippy and kinetic action, and, of course, a throw-caution-to-the-wind
sense of cheekiness and madness that refuses to adhere to any semblance of
and there’s also a heart to the story as well.
It’s about five fortysomething Brits whom all decide – for
better or worse – to attempt to finish what they failed to do over
twenty years ago: Return back to their old hometown of Newton Haven to go
on a massive crawl of a dozen pubs – some with names like ‘The Famous
Cock’ and ‘The Two Headed Dog’ – and have at least one pint
while in each of them. Back
in the 90’s the men failed to reach their final stop on their mission,
The World’s End, and now it's more important than ever for Gary (Simon Pegg)
to finish his ol’ gang’s epic quest that they didn’t complete back
in 1990. Gary is one of those
pathetic men still in a state of perpetual arrested development: He
dresses much as the same as he did when he was a teen, acts in much of the
same way, and, hell, still even drives the same car as he did all those
essentially has to coerce his former BFFs to join him on his lifelong
yearning to finish the crawl. He
finagles real-estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), car salesman Peter
(Eddie Marsan), construction boss Steven (Paddy Constantine) and a tough-as-nails and straight-as-an-arrow lawyer Andrew (Nick Frost) to
return with him back to Newton Haven to complete the Golden Mile pub
crawl. The five men are
eventually joined by Oliver’s sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike), who was once
an item with Gary, but has always been loved by Steven in secret.
Alas, romantic complications are hardly the toughest dilemmas of their night
out. Most of Gary’s friends
would rather be anywhere but in his presence again, but the real problem
of the evening comes when the crawl is interrupted by the startling
revelation that most of the other townsfolk have been replaced by
humanity-enslaving robotic doubles.
don’t want to say anything more about THE WORLD’S END, other than to
say that you will either just surrender yourself to all of its zany
ribaldry and escalating-by-the-minute sense of lunacy or…you won’t.
I was much more leaning to the former, mostly because I loved how
the film radically altered course from being what was appearing to be a
pretty routine reunion story of nostalgia-hungry men trying to recapture
their bonds with one another…only to then morph into something right out
of Rod Serling cross-morphed with John Carpenter.
What’s perhaps most inspiring is that Wright still manages to
flesh out the characters amidst all of the film’s preposterous chaos.
Pegg’s King in particular is a figure that tiptoes between pathos
and whimsicality. He’s an
alcoholic/drug addicted creep that has no life ambitions, but he does love
his buddies and wants to return to the stellar days of his adolescence,
even when his pragmatic friends don’t have an inkling or desire to do the
same. Despite the craziness of the humans versus robots plot, THE WORLD’S END still
infuses its story with a touching amount of heart where the performer’s
chemistry and camaraderie really stands out.
not to say that THE WORLD’S END is all sappiness.
Wright is a limitlessly confident and stylish director in terms of
harnessing the film’s brash and hyper-charged action and its capricious
comic energy. The many sequences that showcase the completely
befuddled men thrashing their way throw the robotic clones has a
free-wheeling frivolity and inspired sense of choreographed mayhem, kind
of akin to what Jackie Chan brought to similar sequences in his chop-socky
flicks. The robots themselves
are kind of nifty creations, whose heads are attached kind of like Barbie
Dolls that can be quickly taken lopped off or crushed into pools of blue
goo. The film finds novelty
in showing Gary and his companions using whatever is at their disposal in
the bars to be used as weapons against this alien menace.
the film were to a flaw then it would be that Wright
and co-writer Pegg don’t seem to have a cohesive exit-strategy from the
film in the third act; they simply don’t know how to end the film on a
satisfying level. The third
act is allowed to meander along for far too long (which involves a
prolonged, but pretty gut-bustingly funny, standoff between Gary and
company versus the leader of the alien robotic army) that then culminates
in an epilogue that – despite being pretty audacious – never real
feels like it belongs in the final cut of the film.
Then there's Rosamund Pike’s Sam, whom never really emerges as
a wholly necessary character in the largely male-centric storyline
(she’s kind of painfully underwritten as the girl-that-got-away role…and nothing more).
Still, I found it truly hard to wipe the wide smile off of my face after seeing THE WORLD END, even days later. The film has a reckless sense of abandon with its wickedly divergent material and arguably packs more laughs per minute than many other mainstream Hollywood comedies of the year thus far. THE WORLD’S END is certainly is not as revitalizing or compellingly novel as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but the performances by Pegg, Frost, et el are as razor sharp and hysterical as ever and the writing is crisp and full of lightning quick verbal zingers. That, and the manner that the film manages to find a sobering heartbeat amidst its crazy sci-fi story twists is kind of a thankless achievement. THE WORLD'S END may have a lot of robot bashing violence and eye-rolling insanity in it, but at its core it tells a story about a sad-sack of a man that wants to be reunited with his friends, return home, and rekindle the fire that has long since been extinguished in his life.
again, it’s hard to reclaim one’s youth when attacked by evil
mechanical doppelgangers from the cosmos.