Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"The World's End" (2013)

Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Directed by Edgar Wright
Rated R - Violence, strong language, sexual references, copious amounts of alcohol
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Gary King (Simon Pegg) recounts what he considers the greatest night of his life to a rehab therapy group. Years ago, Gary and his best friends attempted a pub crawl in their hometown called the Golden Mile - 12 pubs, 12 pints, all culminating at a pub called The World's End. But they never made it. Too young, too stupid and too eager, they drank themselves to an early oblivion... then went on with their lives.

Now, Gary is intent on getting his friends back together for another attempt at the Golden Mile. But each of them has grown up and gone their separate ways. Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and (Nick Frost) all have jobs, careers, families... but Gary does not. In order to convince them to join him, he concocts a story about his mother having died, and the friends reunite in their hometown of Newton Haven.

But no sooner are they on their way for a pint that they start noticing something strange. No one seems to remember them, and the populace has become very, very strange. After a couple of stops and feeling a bit loose, Gary goes into the bathroom of one of the pubs and ends up in a confrontation with a young man he thinks is rude. What escalates into a fistfight ends with Gary shearing the man's head off on the edge of the toilet - revealing that it isn't a man at all. The town, it seems, has been taken over by robots, and the only ones not affected are Gary, his friends, Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) - the object of years-long crushes by both Gary and Steven - and a few random folks here or there.

But as his friends desperately beg him to leave, Gary is adamant that they continue on their pub crawl, determined that nothing will get in his way this time... not even the end of the world.

As a huge fan of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" I was very, very excited to check out "The World's End" and thankfully it doesn't disappoint in the slightest. It's a film by a group of filmmakers and actors at the top of their game, who have delivered a movie that is engaging, hilarious, heartfelt and endlessly pleasurable.

Oh, and the action sequences are surprisingly competent. Actually, not too surprising, since "Hot Fuzz" showed Wright is fully capable of producing something in the Hollywood action mold without missing a step. It's just that here, instead of parodying action films like "Lethal Weapon" and the works of Michael Bay, he's just doing an action sequence. The brawls in this film are both thrilling and utterly hilarious. An initial fight between the friends and their first encounter with the robots in a bathroom is riotous. The crowd in the theatre went nuts, and rightfully so.

"The World's End" features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the main roles, as the two previous films in this thematic trilogy have. But here, smartly, the two actors have actually switched places - Pegg plays the wild, immature and possibly drug-addled one with Frost as the straight man. It allows both of them to show a bit more maturity for themselves as actors, if not as their characters. Pegg was previously the put-upon nice guy and the no-nonsense cop, but here he's clearly having fun playing the wild boy of the group. But he also gets a better chance to show off the damage his character has suffered after a lifetime of drugs, failure and resentment.

Gary lives entirely in the past, and worse, reveres the one night the other guys are all embarrassed by as the greatest night in his life. When the revelations start to come out, Pegg plays his frustration and heartbreak brilliantly - but also hilariously. Even in its most dramatic moments, the film peppers in jokes at a brisk pace.

Frost, similarly, gets to rein it in and be serious for a while. He's the only one of the group who orders tap water at each stop on the crawl. And, again, when he has his revelatory scenes with Pegg, the man cuts loose wonderfully. However, all that said, even with the role reversal between the two actors, Frost is still the one who absolutely steals the show with laugh-out-loud moments that coming seemingly out of nowhere. While Pegg is the reliable comedian through and through, it's Frost who punctuates the entire thing. A brief bit in which he puts his fist through a window is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. You can't miss it; it's one of the film's biggest laughs, and it's also incredibly quick.

The supporting players are mostly wonderful. Rosamund Pike doesn't get a lot to do other than look surprised and flustered by everything, and frustrated by Gary's constant sexual advances regarding bathrooms. Still, she comes through when it counts, though her screentime is limited. There's a wonderful cameo I won't spoil, but an old teacher of the guys' is used to great effect, as well. Everyone displays wonderful comedic timing, and the cast all have excellent chemistry with each other. There's a wit and ease to the gang's banter that makes it seem effortless - and hilarious.

There's little not to like about "The World's End." Sure, logically some of it is suspect, but the film's overabundance of humor and heart easily make up for some of the bone-headed decisions its characters make. It's funny from start to finish, and isn't content to coast on the success of the previous films. It does its own thing, wonderfully.