Review: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” Is The First Great Movie Of 2015
Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriter: Jane Goldman (screenplay), Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar (comic book “The Secret Service”), and Dave Gibbons (comic book “The Secret Service”)
Principal Cast:Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Sophia Cookson, and Michael Caine
I’m not going to lie; I’ve been looking forward to Kingsman: The Secret Service since I saw the first trailer. I knew it was based on a comic by Mark Millar, helmed by director Matthew Vaughn, whose last collaboration gave us the truly fantastic Kick Ass even if the second let me down quite a bit. Matthew Vaughn is also responsible for X-Men: First Class, the best X-men movie thus far. However, as we talked about last week with Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son, sometimes expectations can work against you. I was trying to be as positive as possible, though, because I really wanted this to be good but I also tried to maintain reasonable expectations.
Kingsman: The Secret Service exceeded all of my expectations by featuring a fantastic story with great humor, a strong cast, and inventive and fun action scenes.
Our story follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young man growing up in England and a little down on his luck. His father died when he was a kid and his mother has remarried a jerk who has a small gang at his disposal. After Eggsy manages to get himself arrested, he makes a call to a number left on the back of the medal that was given to him as a child. It’s then that he meets Henry (Colin Firth) and learns the truth about who his father was a Kingsman. Kingsman is a secret organization helmed by a man who goes by “Arthur” (Michael Caine) with tech assistance by “Merlin” (Mark Strong). Henry choose Eggsy to be recruited for the Kingsman as one of their comrades recently died. There is something happening in the world and it involves the elusive billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson).
If it wasn’t obvious from my summary, Kingsman is spoofing on all of the old spy movies from the golden era James Bond. There is everything here that you would expect from a spy movie; crazy gadgets, excellent suits, a villain with a world conquering but crazy plan, a bodyguard for said villain and all of the British mannerism you can throw a stick at. The Kingsman are a group of spies that name themselves after the round table, and if someone dies then that place must be filled. That means that our story is almost split into two; Eggsy getting his training and learning some things about himself, and Valentine’s crazy plan. The Kingsman are a bunch of gentlemen who are proper in all things until the violence breaks out. Then they are breaking bottles over heads and snapping necks. It’s a lovely juxtaposition as you watch Firth lecture someone on manners while beating them into the ground.
I actually think that the “juxtaposition” might be the world of the day when it comes to Kingsman. Unlike in Millar and Vaughn’s first outing, Kick Ass, there is plenty of violence but it’s much more over the top and less realistic. One of the main points of Kick Ass is that superheroes in the real world would be very messy with lots of blood, but Kingsman lands further in the “satire” and “comedy” side than Kick Ass did. I would say the violence isn’t any worse than Hit Girls final fight in Kick Ass. There is a scene at the end of Kingsman where a lot of people die in a rather gruesome way, but it’s presented in such a way that it was actually one of the funniest moments in the movie.
On the other end, though, there is a scene in a church that is probably going to be the most talked about scene in the entire movie. There is a fight scene with an entire congregation in a church that is a very heavy handed swipe at Westboro Baptist and other hate groups that hide behind religion. The scene is still over the top, but it’s also a little uncomfortable as you watch southern families in their Sunday bests beat the absolute hell out of each other in pretty graphic detail. The action scenes are all really well done, and Vaughn is a fan of that tripod I’m so fond of so there was very little “shaky cam”. There were quite a few “bullet time-like” moments, but they were there to make things funnier not more dramatic. The fight in the church had a lot of people, but thanks to Vaughn’s direction I could always tell where someone was within the space of the scene.
The cast is almost universally strong with the stand outs being Colin Firth and Mark Strong. Firth does an excellent job of capturing who the Kingsman are and embodies them with every fiber of his being. He’s perfectly put together until he isn’t, and then we get to see just how dangerous his Henry is. Mark Strong is clearly having fun with the Q role as he trains Eggsy and the other members of the potential Kingsman candidates. Taron Edgerton is our lead and this is probably the biggest role he’s had thus far. He’s very likable as Eggsy and he captures that edge of suave and cocky that comes with playing a James Bond riff. He also has a lot of heart, and he spends most of the movie worrying about his mom and baby sister back in London while he’s training.
Sophie Cookson plays Roxie, another Kingsman recruit, that befriends Eggsy almost right away. She is pretty awesome but she’s criminally underused. The big showdown at the end of the movie involves a lot of different characters each doing something unique. Once Roxie’s task is completed she vanishes for nearly ten minutes. I kept waiting for her to come in and kick a door down, but it never came. I will give the movie about twenty brownie points for not saddling her with the trope that I was sure they were going to. Michael Caine, along with almost any older British man currently acting, makes some sort of appearance.
On the villains side we have Samuel L Jackson who is unique in every way, from the signature way he talks to his mad plan. Valentine isn’t a very showy villain, and its made very clear from the beginning that despite his plans he isn’t fond of blood or fighting. He leaves that to Sofia Boutella as Gazelle. She is a double amputee whose metal legs, like the ones you see at the special olympics, have hidden blades that can cut people in half. She’s also a lot of fun, but we don’t get to know as much as I would like about her.
If I had to nitpick I would say that the church scene does go on a bit too long, and there is a joke at the end that manages to step over the line just a little for me. These are small things in a very solid movie. The pacing is great and it never felt overly long, the humor makes fun of everyone in some way but never gets into outright bigotry, and while there is language it’s not nearly as prevalent as it was in Kick Ass.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is another strong entry into the Vaughn/Millar team. I haven’t read the comic so I can’t compare the two, but based on the movie that I saw I walked away extremely entertained. There are plenty of laughs, some over the top violence, and a few fourth wall breaks. Absolutely recommended.