The World's End Made Its Fight Scenes A Love Letter To Hong Kong Action Films

Oscar Wilde famously said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," but he probably wasn't thinking about beating the crap out of people with bar stools when he said it. Edgar Wright, on the other hand, thought a lot about beating the crap out of people with bar stools in his 2013 sci-fi action-comedy "The World's End," with scenes that pay homage to some of the most celebrated Hong Kong filmmakers.

The acclaimed film was the third installment of Wright's "Cornetto Trilogy," a series of films starring his frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which each built upon the influences of classic genre films. (They each also feature at least one scene with a Cornetto ice cream treat, giving the trilogy its moniker.) "Shaun of the Dead" is a love letter to zombie movies, "Hot Fuzz" is an ode to buddy cop flicks, and "The World's End" is a kung fu comedy throwback, with a little bit of middle-aged reunion drama and alien invasion tossed in for good measure.

Although "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" call their shots directly within their own movies, with clear references to well-known films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Bad Boys II," Wright's kung fu influences may not be as clear to audiences watching "The World's End," which isn't as overtly meta as its predecessors.

Brad Allan had the fight stuff

In a video from Vanity Fair, Wright explores those Hong Kong influences, singling out two particular Hong Kong action movie legends as major influences on his own film: Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. But credit where credit is due, Wright also honors his action collaborator from "The World's End" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," the late stuntman and second unit director Bradley Allan, who took Wright's inspirations to new heights.

Allan may not have the name recognition of Hong Kong superstars Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, but he worked with the best of them. His motion picture career dates back to the mid-1990s, where he performed stunts and had small roles in classic Chan kung fu comedies like "Who Am I?" and "Gorgeous," the latter of which features a fight scene between Allan and Chan where they beat each other so badly they both go cross-eyed.

Allan's prolific work with Chan led to gigs in Hollywood, where he coordinated fights on celebrated action films like "Kick-Ass" and "Pacific Rim," before getting behind the camera to direct the 2nd Unit on big budget franchise pictures, including "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

Allan died in 2021, and in a eulogy on Jackie Chan's official website, Chan said Allan "made masterpieces that amazed many people in [the] film industry" and called the late martial artist "an excellent role model to many action stars."

Sammo Hung's bar brawls

Edgar Wright's action sequences in "The World's End" pay homage to several of Allan's kung fu contemporaries and forebears. Highlighting an action sequence in which Nick Frost uses barstools to beat the hell out of a group of "Blanks," aka townsfolk who have been transformed into mechanical automatons, Wright tells Vanity Fair the scene "is a tribute here to Sammo Hung, the famous Hong Kong action star."

Hung is an award-winning actor, director, and martial arts choreographer who worked on such classic kung fu films as "Project A," "Eastern Condors," and "Ip Man."

While Wright doesn't mention the specific Sammo Hung films that inspired the sequence, fans of the Hong Kong legend may remember similar bar room brawls in films like the horror-comedy "Encounters of the Spooky Kind," where Hung also used barstools as a weapon, and his Jackie Chan collaboration "Project A," which features a hilarious, large-scale bar room martial arts sequence that mixes kung fu with slapstick comedy.

The image of Nick Frost wielding western-style bar stools as boxing gloves playfully evokes the influence of Sammo Hung while also adhering to Edgar Wright's particular, British comedy style. Wright credits Allan with these sequences, calling him an "amazing talent" who was "taken from us too soon."

Jackie Chan's boozy beat 'em ups

Wright goes into more specifics when discussing the influence of Jackie Chan, an actor and director who rose to prominence by combining the successful kung fu genre with physical comedy. During a fight scene in which Simon Pegg kicks butt while trying to finish his beer, Wright explains "this little bit of choreography is straight out of 'Drunken Master 2.'" (American audiences may know the 1994 kung fu comedy classic better as "The Legend of Drunken Master," the title used for its theatrical release in the U.S. in 2000.)

The film stars Jackie Chan as the folk hero Wong Fei-hung, who uses drunken boxing — a martial arts style that imitates the uncoordinated movements of intoxication — to fight off villainous smugglers. In one of the film's centerpieces, Chan fights a gang of hooligans using the signature technique, while his stepmother tosses him bottles of liquor, which he drinks mid-battle. It's a scene mirrored in "The World's End" by Simon Pegg, who plays an alcoholic who tries not to spill his precious beer while he's fighting robots (sorry, "Blanks") from outer space. Both sequences are elaborately choreographed fights with multiple combatants, in which the heroes take every spare second they can find to chug more booze.

Brad Allan's experience working with Jackie Chan on films like "New Police Story" and "Chinese Zodiac" may have helped Wright achieve these playful homages, but homage only gets a filmmaker so far. Wright's action choreographers added their own alcohol-related gags. "I remember seeing [fight coordinator] Damien Walters do this, like kind of throwing his drink and then catching the liquid. And I was like, 'Wow, that's going to be one of those things that's going to take 200 takes to get on camera,'" Wright mused.

"But Simon, to his credit, he really wanted to get that gag in, and he did it."