Based on Mark Millar’s comic of the same name, Kingsman: The Secret Service is quite simply a delight.
Mixing the class and sophistication of the British Elite with a sense of badass violence and action, isn’t a totally original concept, granted. But in an era where James Bond – the ultimate gentleman spy – is getting all gritty and dark on us with outings like Skyfall and the upcoming Spectre, it’s really refreshing to see such an unashamedly fun take on the genre.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, who is best known for similarly exciting films like X-Men: First Class andKick Ass, the film revolves around troubled youth Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton). Eggsy possesses a natural flair for fighting, thieving and trouble-making, after living the majority of his life on a typical English council estate with his Mum, baby sister and thuggish Step-Dad. His real Father was killed in ‘classified’ circumstances when he was young, saving the life of Kingsman Agent, Harry “Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth). Harry leaves a medal of honour with the young Eggsy, claiming that if ever he requires help, he need only ring a number, declaring the code-word “Oxfords not Brogues“. When the older Eggsy finds himself in a police station after a night of mischief, he curiously calls the number, and is suddenly swept up into the thrillingly enigmatic world of the Kingsman Secret Service – All whilst an eccentric plot by a billionaire megalomaniac (Samuel L Jackson) threatens the world’s population.
One of the great things about the film, is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. For all the typical spy tropes that crop up in it’s plot – from the cool gadgetry, to the snappy one-liners and effortlessly hardcore fight sequences (featuring deadly female assassins and an infinite number of heavy gun-men) – it maintains a certain kind of detached irony, that is joyous to experience. It deliberately references other films, in a playful effort to make fun of itself and all the typical movie tropes it uses. In another scene, Eggsy and Kingsman-Head “Arthur” (Michael Caine) deliberately reference other infamous movie spies, like Bond, Bourne and Bauer. There’s even a kind of Hunger Games-esque feel to Eggsy’s Kingsman training as he competes with other candidates in dangerously unorthodox tasks. Whether this makes the film ‘clever’ or not is something to be argued, but to my mind, it certainly seemed a smart move to make. It beats the cynics to the punch, in a way that is immensely enjoyable and breezily received.
That doesn’t mean the film is without it’s faults, however. Raucously fun as it is, it isn’t note-perfect in it’s execution. Though most of the cast play their roles brilliantly – Egerton makes a spectacularly charismatic acting debut while main star Firth excels at balancing his trademark English dapper with an air of thrilling diffidence – the performance that Samuel L Jackson makes is troubling. Jackson plays Richmond Valentine, an eccentric who believes the Earth needs to be saved, and that it can only be salvaged if his villainous scheme – which I shan’t spoil – takes place. However Valentine can’t stand the sight of violence or blood – which as you can imagine in a film of this nature is incredibly ironic. This isn’t the problem. Having Jackson – who if his wallet in Pulp Fiction is anything to go by is the most ‘bad-(ass) motherf**ker’ around – play this ridiculously squeamish ‘master-villain’ is ironic and interesting enough as it is. What is unnecessary is the pathetic lisp that he uses when speaking his lines – which is laughable. In a bad way. The pretentious way in which the credits at the start of the film hurl themselves at the screen like bricks, is also a little much. The entire opening sequence in fact, screams of overstated style and a premature desperation for the audience to engage, this isn’t needed once the main characters meet and the story gets going.
But overall, this is a film that combines an incredible sense of fun with an exhilarating punch of comic-like violence, that both shocks and thrills. There are also several moments in the plot that are genuinely surprising – meaning that the audience is in an almost constant state of suspense, quite literally hanging off the edge of their seats in giddy anticipation. That and the film’s oddly energetic soundtrack – which synchronises with the fighting choreography so well – is enough to make you leave the cinema feeling pumped enough to want to become a Kingsman yourself – stupendously technological umbrella and all.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is out in cinemas nationwide now.
This article was written for The Indiependent, it can be found in it’s original form, here.