Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Michael Smiley
Running time: 109mins
The lowdown: The final bite of the Cornetto trilogy zings with the taste of 90s Britpop nostalgia and memories of 80s sci-fi horror movies. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are joined by Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine for a trip down amnesia lane. Five one-time friends, their aim is to complete the Golden Mile 12 pub crawl in their hometown, a challenge that bested them years earlier. But, with the locals acting distinctly odd, the “five musketeers” have more than a big head on their pints to worry about. While missing the crispness of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the laughs and madcap fights scenes come fast n’ furious and should leave Pegg-heads more than satisfied.
The full verdict: First the good news. The World’s End is a fine final chapter to the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
Now the bad, it ain’t Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. Maybe the trouble is it feels like Shaun of the Retread, with blue-blood aliens replacing zombies, the John Carpenter-esque blue gel lighting in full force and the pub climax in Shaun paid homage 12 times over here.
But, this is still Pegg, Wright and Frost’s show, so the genre movie trappings are spun into something both clever and personal. Here it is the rose-tinting of a bygone era (terrifyingly, the early 90s) and, through a (slightly abrupt) shift into sci-fi, swipes at the homogenisation of English towns by chain pubs and franchise coffee outlets.
But, to quote Primal Scream’s Loaded that becomes a cri de couer by the denouement, The World’s End wants to be free to do what it wants to do, and it wants to have a good time.
The first half hour, with Pegg’s Gary King getting the gang back together, points toward life for the filmmakers beyond pop culture mashing comedies. Wry and bittersweet, Pegg and Wright’s script delves into character deeper than they’ve done previously.
Here they are benefited by a fantastic cast, particularly Frost as Andy, teetotal and anti-Gary after an oft-alluded to past incident.
But, this is Pegg’s show and enjoyment rests solely on how you warm to his eternal-teen good laugh/night-out ruiner Gary “the once and future” King. His vanity-free performance, crow’s feet and all, may be the best work Pegg has done. Funny, infuriating and with secrets of his own, by the time the titular pub is reached you are prepared to accept this 40-year-old arrested development case as humankind’s best line of defence.
Surprisingly, there are peaks and troughs in the pacing by the time we get here. Odd from a director whose marvelous Scott Pilgrim was a perfectly sustained blast of filmmaking of brio.
But, Wright is a world class action movie director in waiting, a pub brawl choreographed with the imagination and precision of classic Jackie Chan as Gary attempts to fight off locals while not spilling his pint.
Disappointingly, women barely get a look in. Rosamund Pike as Gary’s old flame is picked up and dumped whenever the plot requires. Jessica Hynes, you’re needed.
But, with an ending located a full 180 degrees from cop-out, this is still a night out to remember.