When he was 18, Gary King was, well, the king of his small town domain. He and his four buds (Oliver, Peter, Andy and Steven) roamed little Newton Haven's streets with a cocky swagger, a penchant for irresponsible, hard drinking, and nary a thought of destructibility.
In fact, one of the best nights of his life was when he and his mates took their shot at the Golden Mile—a pub crawl of 12 withering watering holes, starting at the Old Familiar and ending at The World's End. The goal is 12 pubs and 12 pints.
They didn't make it all the way.
But when the sun rose that next morning, they watched it glimmer together, glazed, bleary, spattered with vomit and filled with all the hung-over promise that the cold light of a new day could possibly bring.
That was back in 1990. Now it is tomorrow and things ain't so promising. If anything, Gary's life hasn't changed a whit. His friends moved on, at least to a certain degree, making their way through careers, divorce and your usual round of dashed hopes. But for Gary it's all been about remembering that past "mountain top" experience as his face grows wrinkly and his hair thins out.
All that's about to change, though! Gary has suddenly landed on an epiphany! The last 20 years have been empty and pointless! He's been staring at the same old posters! He's been wearing the same old clothes! Driving the same old car! It's time to shake things up! It's time to gather the mates together … and finish the Golden Mile!
That's what his life's been missing, he concludes. Those 12 pubs and 12 pints. And when they finish their fabulous crawl, when they surpass the pinnacle of pinnacles and see that sun rise with new purpose, promise will abound once more.
It'll be brilliant … as long as a robotic alien takeover of the planet doesn't get in the way.
Gary's mates are a loyal lot, I'll give them that. As much as they all realize that reliving that mythical pub crawl probably isn't a good idea—especially for Andy, an alcoholic who's been sober now for 16 years—they still decide to tag along just to give their old friend their full vote of support.
Andy joins in on the condition that he'll only be drinking water. Later, he reveals that his marriage is on the rocks, but professes to be working hard to repair the marital rift. Oliver's sister, Sam, tells Gary that a "do what you want" devil-may-care attitude might be somewhat attractive in a bad-boy 18-year-old, but it's certainly not for a guy pushing 40. So she suggests he grow up.
During their rambling conversations, the friends somehow land on the question of who wrote the Bible. Somebody thinks Gary is suggesting it was secretly written by Alexander Dumas. But Gary retorts, "Don't be daft, it was written by Jesus!"
While remembering his first Golden Mile exploits, Gary talks about having sex with Sam in a bathroom stall. Twenty-some years later, he attempts to re-create that event—and Sam slaps his face. The guys joke about Steven's crush on Sam and the visible erection he'd always have whenever he saw her.
As events unfold, the guys come to realize that those dreaded alien robots are replacing most of Newton Haven's residents. Gary, Andy and Pete are then seduced by young female robots on the dance floor: The "girls" kiss them passionately and lick their faces in an attempt to gain DNA samples. One of the sexy robots removes Andy's wedding ring with her lips and swallows the jewelry. She purrs at Andy, "I want you inside of me …"
And Andy grotesquely obliges the robotic seductress by jamming his fist through her abdomen and retrieving his ring.
That extreme scene represents much of the over-the-top physical thumping that goes on once Gary and his friends start battling with the flesh-and-bone imitating invaders. Heads, arms and legs are ripped off mechanical foes and used as bludgeons to wade through scores of the creatures. Heads and entire bodies are crushed, spurting a blue inky fluid in place of blood. Andy becomes something of a secret warrior, picking up pieces of furniture and smashing his way through a room full of the robots.
During these battles, Sam and the guys are also kicked, pummeled and thrown through glass windows. They have their faces slammed into walls and smashed viciously down on table tops. In an effort to prove his humanity, Gary rams his own forehead into a wooden post several times. He jumps off a second story roof and crashes down on a car rooftop.
Tripping, painful pratfalls round out the rawness as the friends grow drunker with each additional downed pint.
Crude or Profane Language
Over 70 f-words, 15 s-words and multiple uses of "b‑‑tard," "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑" glare at audiences like a pair of menacing robotic eyes. Jesus' name is profaned eight or more times. And several crude-to-obscene slang references to male and female genitalia are made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
To say that much beer and alcohol flows in many locales is to say that a global robotic alien invasion is frightening. The friends, along with scores of teens and twentysomethings, sport beer bottles and other alcoholic drinks. Even teetotalist Andy eventually starts imbibing once the situation turns dire—slugging back a tray full of shots. The friends continue drinking and barhopping because they reason that the pub-to-pub crawl will help them look "normal." Thus, they become more and more staggeringly drunk with each stop.
Gary remembers buying pot and smoking a few joints with his pals (which we see in flashback). Later, he tries to score some more weed.
Other Negative Elements
This should be crystal clear by now, but just in case it's not: The fact that a drunken pub crawl could be the "best night of my life" is repeatedly reinforced by Gary. And though his friends suggest he "grow up," the film never dissuades him (or viewers) of his immature opinion.
Several gay jokes are bandied about, including the suggestion that Andy's choice to abstain from alcohol diminishes his masculinity. Gary argues with his aliens captors, reasoning that human society was "founded on f‑‑‑-ups!"
That's as good a word as any to describe this film―the third of a loose trilogy of genre spoofs co-created by star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. What they did to parody zombie flicks in Shaun of the Dead and buddy cop pics in Hot Fuzz they now apply to apocalyptic end-of-the-world fare.
The script is a blaze of old movie references, barmy, mile-a-minute wordplay and nudge-nudge gags wrapped in a character-driven story that gets more energetically giddy and outright crazed as pints of beer and alien dominators keep flogging the screen.
That's not to suggest, however, that this is a typical brain-dead Hollywood spoof comedy like, say, Scary Movie V. There are some smarts and some analogical layers beneath the quips in this case. As Gary gathers his mates in an attempt to recapture the self-glorified memories of yore, viewers may find themselves thinking about satirical parallels between the changes of a small "Starbucked" hometown and a world that's being systematically invaded by an alien brain trust. One could even reason that all the sci-fi insanity that shows up (as the beers go down) is really just a surreal peek inside Gary's fevered brain as it searches for meaning and fulfillment.
But whatever else may be read into or said about this cinematic humming top of childhood baggage, male bonding, alcoholism and robotic invaders, there's one other word that also fits it quite well:
Searing language and reckless boozing lay over everything like filthy bar rags. Then, instead of any real comeuppance or resolution for man-child Gary and all the other obnoxious behavior on display, the movie simply gives something of a metaphorical nod to it all, a drunken lift of the comic glass before knocking back another pint … and flitting off into a whimsical sci-fi dénouement.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Simon Pegg as Gary King; Martin Freeman as Oliver; Eddie Marsan as Peter; Nick Frost as Andy; Paddy Considine as Steven; Rosamund Pike as Sam
Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead)
August 23, 2013
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose