Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the fantastic ‘Cornetto’ trilogy, it’s don’t let Edgar Wright near your pub. Beginning with the climatic zombie destruction of The Winchester in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead through the collateral damage of all of Sandford’s local establishments in Hot Fuzz and now here in the eleven pubs leading to the twelfth and titular The World’s End, no barstool has been left unsplintered or unweaponized in one man’s struggle against a violent collective. It’s fitting that the oft tapped beer in this final installment is called Crowning Glory as Wright pulls out all the stops to deliver not only another great original action-comedy, but also a heartfelt conclusion to a trio of films that asked their audiences to face up to adulthood even if that also meant facing undead or intergalactic threats along the way.
In this case, the man on a mission is Gary King, a gloriously wild-eyed, drunken Simon Pegg. King brings us up to speed regarding an attempt him and his four mates made on their town’s Golden Mile pub crawl—five guys, twelve pubs, sixty pints. In 1990, they couldn’t complete their mission and King’s never lived it down. While his four friends have grown up into normal lives, King retains all the trappings of his youth from his Sisters of Mercy tee to the mix cassette in his car’s tape deck. Getting no reaction to his epic pub tale from his Alcoholics-Anonymous-like support group, Gary resolves to get his men back together for another try. He faces the harshest resistance from Andy (Nick Frost), his one time best friend, but having duped the other three men (Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman) to get on board first by lying about his complicity, Andy grudgingly joins in.
In their hometown, the friends find everything the same and yet strangely alien. The pubs have lost their individuality, the town center marred by Modern Art (a statue that looks like Thor‘s Destroyer, which can’t be a good sign). Worst of all, none of the residents seem to recall or acknowledge any of Gary’s crew. Either the residents of the town are not themselves or they never really cared at all to begin with. The first of many illuminating realizations for Gary is that the discovery the residents really aren’t themselves because of a robotic threat is actually a relief compared to the alternative. At the very least, it keeps King’s crew united in battle right at the point in Gary’s desperate mission where they’re all just about to go home.
The action scenes are the most creative you’re likely to see this year with Gary’s other worldly opponents offering plenty of surprises while not being completely invulnerable (sometimes a problem in your summer action flicks). There’s a video-game like playfulness to a couple of the best sequences that I can only think were strengthened through Wright’s Pegg-and-Frost-free work on Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Similarly on the human side, every man brings their own skill set to the struggle from Andy’s simmering Hulk-like rage, to Gary’s one-handed defense of his glass of beer. It translates to the physical comedy actually maintaining the level of rapid fire laughs that Wright’s writing is known for.
In between the drinking and the brawls, the men gradually fall into the roles of their teenage selves in the group which allows for touching emotional moments as they confront their own unfinished business completely separate from the pub crawl. Particularly moving and early in the film is Eddie Marsan’s Pete reacting to the utter indifference shown to him by his once school bully.
Fitting for the film, I remember my own sixteen year old self doing my best to get the word out on Shaun of the Dead in my high school newspaper and am elated to report that this trio of films has never dipped in quality. What a relief that we’ve made it through so many other apocalyptic films this year unscathed in order to get to Wright’s crowning glory.