The Most Fun You’ll Have At a Movie This February
Director: MATTHEW VAUGHN/2015
Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on an acclaimed Marvel comic and tells the tale of an ultra-secret spy agency in Great Britain tasked with saving the world. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class), the film has the stylistic veneer of the modern action film with numerous nods and homages to classic spy films of the past, namely Sean Connery’s James Bond films.
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, The Railway Man, Love Actually) stars as “Galahad”, one of the modern day knights serving as a Kingsman. This organization uses code names tied to the story of King Arthur, and is headed by “Arthur”, who is played here sparingly (though effectively) by Michael Caine (Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar). When one of their own, “Lancelot”, is killed during an operation, the Kingsman look to discover who the mastermind is behind it. They must also recruit a new Kingsman to replace “Lancelot”. Each Kingsman member finds a recruit, and all of the potentials will train with only the last one standing earning the right to become a Kingsman.
Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, a troubled youth whose mother is married to a local thug. His father had died when Eggsy was very young. The only item Eggsy has of his father is a medal given to Eggsy as a young child by a gentleman who wanted to honor him. That person, unbeknownst to Eggsy, was “Galahad”. When Eggsy finds himself in trouble with the law, he calls the number on the back of the medal and “Galahad” shows up to repay Eggsy’s father, who had saved his life, by inviting Eggsy to be a candidate for the Kingsman.
At this point in the film, Vaughn takes the young recruits dynamic, which he had in X-Men: First Class when the X-Men were training themselves to use their powers at Xavier’s house, and applies it to this setting. While they don’t have mutant powers, Vaughn utilizes fun spy scenarios to test their strengths and weaknesses and probe the various personal conflicts amongst the recruits.
The set pieces, and gadgets, pay homage to classic spy films, though the technology is updated. There are underground lairs, watches that serve as weapons, and a classic way of dressing so that the modern day spy/knight is not seen as a grunt soldier, but a gentleman who holds up the highest ideals, models manners, but is unafraid to fight.
A classic British spy-film would be nothing without an over-the-top villain bent on either world domination, or destruction to cure the earth of its injustices. Enter Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) who plays media mogul Valentine. Valentine lives up the above-mentioned description, and is so-over-the-top that he takes it one step further and subverts the whole genre by being a bad guy who takes himself serious while having a ridiculous lisp when he speaks, and who abhors seeing any violence despite being driven towards it. He has no problem with violence happening, mind you, he just doesn’t want to see it, lest it induce his strong gag-reflex. He is also the only Billionaire who serves a fellow Billionaire McDonald’s in a fancy silver serving tray!
A super-villian must also have henchmen, and here, it is Gazelle (Sophia Boutella), an assassin with blades for feet. Following the Olympian “Blade Runner”, Oscar Pistorius’, murder trial this makes this almost a “cut from the headlines” type of henchman, only now the “blades” aren’t for running but for doing what blades do….cutting up her enemies. And boy, does she use them effectively!
Kingsman: The Secret Service never takes itself too seriously, firmly planting its collective tongue in its cheek, but allowing the audience to be in on the jokes, and the fun. With references to James Bond, My Fair Lady, Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer, Get Smart, and more, you could be entertained just trying to count the pop-culture references. There are also terrible puns throughout as past James Bond films have employed, complete with Firth’s “Galahad” thanking Valentine for the “Happy Meal” they shared (The McDonald’s dinnerE).
Despite all of the fun, this film is a hard-R rated film due to its language (it has Samuel L. Jackson after all) and its excessive over-the-top violence that also gives nod to such films as Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End). Colin Firth makes himself into a believable action star much like Liam Neeson has, only here with much more humor and debonaire. I wouldn’t be surprised to see fellow Bridget Jones alum Hugh Grant doing the same type of turn in the upcoming spy film The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
While this film is not perfect, and at times can be downright silly when it is trying to be serious (see the weather balloon sequence), it will be the most fun you have at any movie this February. It also could prove controversial given its treatment of President Obama, and other world leaders, in the film. When all is said and done, Marvel could find itself with a R-rated hit on its hands that could actually lead to more installments…and that, could be a great thing.