The World’s End is the final movie in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s loosely connected “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which started with romcomzom Shaun of the Dead and continued with cop buddy action movie Hot Fuzz. Prepare for barmageddon as it hits theatres this weekend.
1. What’s it all about then?
At first glance, it’s about a bunch of school friends – played by Pegg and Frost together with Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, who are now in their 40s, returning to their home town of Newton Haven to attempt an epic, 12-venue, pub crawl along “The Golden Mile,” a quest that defeated them when they were 18. Pegg’s character, Gary King, is fresh out of rehab and stuck in those teenage years, still wearing the same Sisters Of Mercy T-Shirt and Goth trench coat. He decides he needs to finish what he started and convinces the others to join him, with Frost’s Andy as the toughest nut to crack. Along the way, things take a strange, Body Snatching/Stepfordy, turn and that’s where the fun really begins.
(Sidenote: I chose to do a similar pub crawl before seeing the film – twice in fact, once in my home town with my old school mates, and once with my new neighbours where I live now. Both times it was a great night out and watching the film in the same state as the protagonists only made it more enjoyable. The signs in this post are the pubs we visited!)
2. Do I need to have seen Shaun and Hot Fuzz first?
Not at all. The main characters are all totally different from the other two films. The trilogy is kind of joke that grew out of a comment during the press tour for Hot Fuzz. The films are linked thematically – being as they are all comments on modern life, carefully hidden inside genre-movies. If your butt can take it, a bunch of theatres are showing all three movies back to back which is a good way to get up to speed.
3. Will I like it?
If you enjoyed the first two flavours, or the TV show Spaced, then this is more of the same, albeit a bit darker and somber in tone. The in-jokes and references are fewer and much more subtle this time, but it’s still very well written. The biggest difference is that this time Pegg plays the crazy one and Frost is the straight man – a welcome change, which shows off another side to both of their acting skills. I think it will strike more of a cord with you if you’re around 40, as the characters are, but it’s not really a mid-life crisis film, even though the main character is desperately trying to cling on to his youth.
4. Will my kids like it?
That depends on whether they’re old enough to get in I suppose. There’s a fair amount of fighting, some drug references and bad language – including three instances of the ‘c word’ as detailed in this NSFW letter from the British Board of Film Censors to director Edgar Wright – but it’s OK because it’s used in a funny way, right? The send off in the climax of the film is a brilliant example of how to swear drunkenly and is sure to become a catchphrase.
Given that the main pretext of the film is about getting drunk, some parents may want to preview it before. The alcoholism is never played for laughs though, and Gary is seemingly chastised about it at every turn, to little avail.
5. How is the cast?
Excellent all round. Pegg and Frost are great playing against type and Freeman is superb as Oliver, the “Gordon Gekko” of the group – he has some amazing facial expressions that are so natural that he can’t possibly have thought ‘now, I must pull that face at this particular moment’. Paddy Considine plays Steven the ‘nice guy’ of the gang well and Marsan is solid as the eager-to-please Peter. Rosamund Pike’s Sam adds a bit of balance to the male leads to take the edge off the testosterone and performs well against Pegg’s perpetual teenager.
6. What about the rest?
Fans will spot many actors from Spaced, Shaun and Hot Fuzz, including Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith, as well as some lesser known, but cult favourites. Heavy hitters Pierce Brosnan, David Bradley and Bill Nighy also have some perfect-played cameos which are a delight to see.
7. What’s the action?
The first half hour is the character building section where were really get to the gang and find out what makes them tick. There are some genuinely moving moments here as we get hints as to why Gary and Andy fell out, but the action kicks in when Gary drunkenly chats to a kid in the toilet, ending up in a fight and the ‘blue ink’ starts flowing. Pretty soon we’re in the middle of western style bar brawl and it never really lets up from there. Punches and body parts are flying all over the place and the cast look very convincing in their fight scenes, especially Frost.
8. And the effects?
There aren’t really that many to see really, possibly because they’re so well done that you don’t even notice them. There are no fancy CGI spaceships here, but when they town folk turn on our heroes, the lights of their eyes and mouths are quite chilling, in a Stephen King or John Carpenter kind of way.
9. How’s the soundtrack?
Decidedly retro. If you were in your teens around 1990, then you’ll probably know most of the songs played in the film. I feel once again like Wright and Pegg raided my own CD collection – all killer, no filler! The really clever thing though is how each tune fits perfectly with the part of the movie it’s featured in. Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded’ kicks things off with its “we wanna be free to do what we want to do” sampled mantra, James’ ‘Come Home’ is playing as they enter the first pub, Kylie’s ‘Step Back In Time’ is pumping out at the School Disco in another. My only criticism is that we never get hear more than a minute or so of each one in the movie. Even though I already had a lot of the songs I still had to buy the soundtrack.
10. Clever buggers, aren’t they?
That’s not the half of it. The name of each pub directly references what happens inside it. They start at ‘The First Post’, the second pub is called ‘The Old Familiar’ and looks exactly like the first (a comment on the homogenisation and franchising of pubs and high streets in the UK). We learn a lot about the gang in ‘The Good Companions’ and our heroes are tempted by sirens in ‘The Mermaid’. And in case you forgot what pub they’re up to in the crawl, look out for the hidden in plain sight references to help you out – ‘food served until SEVEN’, ‘we open at ELEVEN’ and so on.
11. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
If you do go for the pre-movie pub crawl option, then this is a very important question. If you want to see all the action, then you need to go early. The scenes in ‘The Famous Cock’ give you a bit of back-story on the group, particularly Gary and Sam’s ‘relationship’, but nothing that you can’t work out for yourself. There’s more character establishing at ‘The Cross Hands’, but make sure you’re back in time for ‘The Good Companions’.
12. Any ‘After-hours’ post credit action?
Nope, they wrap it all up in the main movie. The epilogue (which I totally did not see coming), or at least the second part of it would have worked brilliantly as a mid-credits scene, but I guess it’s just not Edgar Wright’s style. You do have to wait almost to the end of the film to get the third Cornetto though.