THE WORLD’S END (R) Failing to conquer a grueling pub crawl 20-some years ago (12 pubs, 12 pints) in the English village of Newtown Haven, alcoholic manchild Gary King (Simon Pegg) and his four more socially established mates—Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan)—are committed to reaching drunken glory in middle-age. Gary, who has never accepted adult responsibility, uses the pub crawl as a means to bring his old estranged friends back together and to revel in past glories. He’s a mess, but his pals aren’t exactly happy with their lives either, despite the façade of respectability and contentment they each exude. As the group trudges through one pub after another downing their pints, old resentments bubble over, dark secrets are revealed and otherworldly events intrude, helping to make this night unforgettable.
Summer may be over, but the best escapist movie of the season has finally arrived. Director/co-writer Edgar Wright’s latest movie (the third in his loose trilogy including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) is inventive, hysterically funny and at times a sobering, melancholy ode to lost youth and adult reconciliation.
Co-written by actor Pegg, who also delivers one of his best performances, The World’s End moves with that breathless kinetic energy we expect from Wright, but it’s also anchored with an undercurrent of insightful emotional power. That’s not to suggest that The World’s End is somehow Wright’s sentimental version of The Big Chill. Like all his movies, it’s a genre mash-up, mixing equal parts John Carpenter with Barry Levinson’s Diner, and with heavy doses of ridiculous and beautifully choreographed comedic action scenes that would make any aficionado of mid-period Jackie Chan cinema proud. It’s brilliant.
But what makes an Edgar Wright movie truly memorable is his way of allowing his actors to shine in deadpan fashion. Whether it’s the dysfunctional roommates from Wright’s early television show Spaced or the hapless losers from Shaun of the Dead, his characters are always endearingly recognizable and spot-on, regardless of whatever outlandish event they find themselves mixed up in. Everyone is excellent here, though Frost and Marsan really make the most of their performances. The World’s End isn’t perfect, but it’s damn near close. Like all of Wright’s multi-layered movies, including the stylistically dazzling yet empty-headed misfire Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it demands repeat viewing.
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