Stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright's new movie The World's End opens in Irish cinemas today, Friday July 19. Harry Guerin tags along for a very strange homecoming.
How apt. Three men who have found a worldwide fanbase with the kind of movies you'd watch before or after going for 12 pints have now made one in which the heroes are on a mission to down a dozen. Each.
But while The World's End has plenty in common with Mess(e)rs Wright, Pegg and Frost's previous outings Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, there's also enough of an edge to this sci-fi pub crawl to make you wonder what the director and his leading men could work on in the future. They're never far away from a good laugh here, but you can see them inching towards a drama for grown-ups, too.
For Gary King (Pegg), the world stopped spinning on June 22, 1990, aka the best night of his life. In his hometown of Newton Haven, the then 18-year-old embarked on the rite of passage Golden Mile with four pals, got into plenty of scrapes inside, outside and in between pubs and scored with the best looking girl from school.
The gang didn't, however, get to the 12th and final watering hole, The World's End. Now, 20 years later, Gary wants to get everyone together to rewrite history. They've moved on, he's still wearing his Sisters of Mercy t-shirt and black stretchies.
But through a combination of lies and emotional blackmail, Gary manages to get erstwhile wingman-turned-lawyer Andy (Frost), property developer Steven (Considine), estate agent Oliver (Freeman) and luxury car salesman Peter (Marsan) back on the Friday evening train to New Haven. As is customary with these liquid reunions there'll be guilt-trips, rivalry and old wounds to go with the peanuts, but none of the five is quite prepared for just how much the town has changed since they've been away.
We're accustomed to liking the characters Pegg plays in his movies with Frost and Wright, but Gary King is a different kind of manchild to Shaun in Shaun of the Dead and Nick Angel in Hot Fuzz. Your opinion of him could well depend on how close to 40 you are yourself: the older you are the more likely you'll side with Frost as the heard-it-all-before sidekick, Andy. The relationship here is more bitchy-bitchy than buddy-buddy and, through the mixture of affection, disappointment and anger, Pegg and the director's script gets the dynamic of male friendship gone wrong just right.
That's the serious stuff; the fun comes from another genre mash-up which takes in social science fiction, John Carpenter, broken Action Men, The Warriors, Blockbusters, fence mishaps and much more and serves up the one-liners and comebacks a lot quicker than our heroes can down their drinks. As befits their physical condition, the pacing is breathless. Crucially, Wright isn't wheezing with them by the end.
If you didn't like Pegg, Frost and Wright's previous movies, The World's End probably won't change your mind. But plenty who are old enough to know better will feel glad they don't, and for some 15-year-old this could well mark the first hedge jump on the road to Nerdhalla. Lucky them.