Kingsman: The Secret Service Review
Kingsman: The Secret Service is yet another comic-book inspired notch in director Matthew Vaughn’s belt. With Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class serving as solid warm-ups for Vaughn, Kingsman may very well be the best of the lot with its solid blend of cool gadgetry, stylish action and it’s lack of fear for being completely over-the-top.
Because that’s truly what Kingsman is all about, taking classic tropes and cliches and pushing them to ridiculous heights. And for what it’s worth, it works very well, delivering a film that is equal parts thrilling and hilarious.
Kingsman stars Taron Egerton as Eggsy, a ne’er-do-well from the estates of London who becomes wrapped up in the underground world of The Kingsmen, a secretive spy agency that his father once was a part of. He is tutored by Harry Hart (played excellently by Colin Firth), a longtime Kingsman whose life was saved by Eggsy’s father. Eggsy and the Kingsmen must fight to save the world from megalomaniac billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, of course), whose philanthropy is a cover for his dubious plans.
It’s a straight forward plot that has been used many times before: boy follows in his father’s footsteps to join a secret agency that protects the world. But you see, Kingsman does it so much better than many of those other films. Eggsy isn’t your usual quiet kid who gets caught up in the action; he is a cocky, brash kid from a rough neighborhood. And a cocky, brash kid joining a league of gentlemen spies, well… You can imagine where a good deal of the film’s humor originates. Egerton does a valiant job carrying a majority of the film. He is surrounded by several other much more experienced actors, but he is funny, likable and is the perfect man for the audience to cheer for. Also, it is worth noting that he dons an accurate London accent, something that Hollywood tends to have difficulty portraying.
However, on the side of the Kingsmen, Firth really steals the show. He is an excellent combination of suave, physical, and witty. A true English gentleman who is perfectly comfortable deploying his finely honed skills to kick your ass. And kick ass he does. There are multiple scenes throughout the film where Hart dispatches entire rooms of enemies and they are some of the most enthralling moments of the film.Vaughn’s deft and stylish direction of these action sequences must also be commended. The action flies across the screen at a breakneck pace, but it is never confusing or muddled. In fact, slow-motion is perfectly utilized to really drive home some of the film’s more brutal violence. The use of The Kingsmen’s various cool gadgets is also a highlight. Spy watches, HUD glasses and utility umbrellas are just a few of them worth mentioning.
And what can one expect from a (non-Marvel) Matthew Vaughn film? Kingsman puts the violence at the forefront, delivering some of the shocking and gruesome kills that people either loved or hated about Kick-Ass. And in the same vein, a great deal of this violence is used for comedic effect. In fact, there isn’t much about Kingsman that isn’t played for laughs at some point. The film is quite funny and isn’t afraid to mix some good old fashioned physical humor in with the dry, sardonic English wit put forth by Hart and Mark Strong’s Merlin.
Anyway, back to how awesome Colin Firth is. Yeah, he’s awesome. And he even carries a great deal of the film’s limited emotional impact. Little emotion hinges on the awful deeds that Valentine commits or will commit. Instead, the characters themselves carry it with them from their pasts. Although there isn’t much time for characterization, what is there is done well. Eggsy and Hart are (no pun intended) the heart of the movie and they are the focus of the film’s time spent on character development. Their characters are fleshed out well, with their eventual bonding feeling natural and necessary, but it would have been nice to see some of the film’s supporting players receive a little more love. Merlin, essentially the Kingsmen’s version of Q, is an excellent character, but he is criminally underutilized. Perhaps a possible sequel will do him justice. Also, Roxy, Valentine’s sword-legged assistant, has potential, but she has very little to do in a film crowded with action and characters.
At this point, the only character I haven’t touched on is Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine, the villain of the film. While clearly a parody of the dark, serious, suave villains that Bond constantly faces, Valentine lisps and laughs his way through much of the film. He is a loud, colorful, billionaire philanthropist with some pretty twisted plans. Oh, and he is awesome, too. Valentine essentially is like every other spy film villain in intentions, but his personality and background are more modern and realistic. For all intents and purposes, Valentine is Mark Zuckerberg if he decided to kill billions of people.
Valentine, while serving as the antagonist, also gives the film a hearty injection of humor. He is so utterly over-the-top and… well, silly, you can’t help but laugh. He wouldn’t seem out of place in an Austin Powers movie if it weren’t for the fact that that he does in fact have some very serious plans for the world. His character truly serves as a microcosm for Kingsman as a whole. A nice, shiny coating of over-the-top silliness, with an undercurrent of dark, serious spy stuff. It’s easy to get sucked in by Colin Firth taking out a room of baddies with badass gadgets and then delivering a witty one-liner, but you’ll want to stay for the film’s more serious, tense moments. It’s a magnificent duality that not every film can pull off, but thanks to strong performances by the entire cast and some of the best direction of Matthew Vaughn’s career, Kingsman just works.
Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Sam Jackson
Lack of characterization for a great deal of the cast