Upon first glance, Kingsman: The Secret Service looks like an outdated, outlandish attempt to reinvigorate the action spy genre that saw Pierce Brosnan fail miserable as his final appearance as the famous spy-agent James Bond in The World is Not Enough. Since 2005, thanks to the likes of Martin Campbell and Christopher Nolan, two directors that took two very different iconic action figures, Batman and James Bond, and injected a much needed, gritty, dark, reality-based foundation to these characters and their overall narratives, over-the-top action has long been expired. In the last decade, what has arisen, is a very dark and realistically twisted take on many action icons, both in the superhero genre and the action hero genre, that allows the cartoonish elements of these characters to fade, and the realistic to rise in popular and rewarding box office results.
One of these aforementioned films that inhabited a reality based narrative structure was the recently re-invisioned X-Men film franchise, which was, ironically, reinvented by Matthew Vaughn in X-Men: First Class in 2011. The film, which took place in 1962, set around the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, showed just how much the comic book genre succeeded among audiences when introduced around real-world events.
The amazing thing about Kingsman: The Secret Service, is that the same man who was responsible for breathing new, raw life into the X-Men franchise, after the disaster that Brett Ratnet’s X-Men: The Last Stand was, is the same man that is bringing back the absolutely manic and outrageous spy-agent genre with a vengeance. Thankfully for everyone, Kingsman: The Secret Service is the action movie we have been waiting to see and the is the tremendously alternative to a highly unbelievable 007 movie that never came.
Upon first view, I too was skeptical about the dynamics of Vaughn’s newest Millar adaptation (Vaughn had already adapted Millar’s Kick-Ass). Looking back at the trailers, the action looked silly; the players too cliched in the world of agent-spy standards; and gimmicky thanks to the inclusion of adorable pugs and attractive cast members. Boy was I wrong!
Kingsman is a highly calculated film romp that never takes itself too seriously, yet never lets go of its grip of highly entertaining action movie and escapism Hollywood fluff. To think that Vaughn could have potentially abandoned this project completely to make X-Men: Days of Future Past is sad. Thankfully, the highly visionary and confident filmmaker stuck to his guns, and delivers easily, one of the most entertaining films of 2015 thus far.
Kingsman begins as any action movie should; with a girl. But this girl, is a recently widowed mother who surprisingly has a stranger visit her in the late night, to tell her that her husband, a Kingsman (unbestknown to her) was killed in the line of duty. The stranger, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), is unwelcome in the home, and focuses his energy to his partners newborn son, Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton), where he discloses to him that, if ever in the future he encounters any problems, the Kingsman are indebted to them forever thanks to the bravery of their patriarch.
Flash forward a decade, and Eggsy is a troublesome youth, whose failed attempts in the marines, and trouble with the law finds his luck at the shit end, time and time again. It isn’t until Eggsy, who in an act of defiance for his mother against her petty mafia boyfriend, finds himself in a police station, in deperate need of the Kingsmans help. After a quick phone call, that ends ambiguously, Eggsy is released of the police station and greeted by the same man who visited him and his mother upon the news of his father’s death, Harry Hart. Luckily for Eggsy, Harry offers him a job interview, that could see him in the same line of work as his father, and could change his world forever thanks to an unexpected visit to a tailor shoppe.
On the surface, Kingsman seems to be a neat and well dressed action film. Once cracked open, Kingsman is a rough, tough, cocky-filled fuel ride of adrenaline, bad manners and tailored attitude that puts James Bond and company to shame.
Vaughn, whose decision to keep the material in his native English tongue, complete with attitude-filled cockney accents and strong British accents, breaths new life to the very apocalyptic world take over plans of the film’s villain, and easily the best and most iconic villain of 2015, Richmond Valentine, played with such bravado and vigour by the astonishing Samuel L. Jackson. I know what your thinking. How in the hell can Jackson, whose playing a villain with a bad and wholly unnecessary lisp, offer any bravado and vigour to a role that is more comical than anything? My answer to you, is that you just watch the film and see for yourself. In addition to being one of the best aspect of Kingsman along with his highly inventive and wholly contemporary scheme to rid the virus known as mankind, Valentine, as well as the film itself, is a highly meticulous and thought-out tongue and cheek ode to the many iconic and memorable films and film villains of the early 70’s and 80’s. One of the best dialogues in the film, when Valentine and Hart meet for the first time, and indulge in some fine, wholly signature American cuisine, the two discuss, each of their displeased thoughts with the current state of spy, action movies. “A spy movie is only as good as its villain”, says Valentine, in which Hart agrees formidable. I can only imagine how big of a grin screenwriters Jane Goldman and Vaughn himself had penning the script to this film with that notion in mind.
Aside from its far-fetched theatrical plot, introduction of benign and tremendously diabolical gizmos and gadgets, and its obsession with gratoitous violence that is almost animated and cartoonish itself (keep a close eye for colourful exploding heads), the over-the-top spy action genre never looked so sharp.
Manners maketh man, as many of the Kingsman recite over many times throughout the runtime of the film, but we can help but think how informal and impolite the film really is as a whole. Blending the typical initiation and mentally breaking training cliches of so many beginners spy films, the themes of sacrifice and grit, Kingsman: The Secret Service can’t be taken more seriously, and for that, it is easily one of the most pleasurable times at the cinemas this year.
Flooded with an array of fine British talent, including Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, Jack Davenport, Geoff Bell as well as some international talent in the form of Mark Hamill, the signature henchman of Sofia Boutella and Corey Johnson, one cannot help but notice how much fun the cast and crew must have had during the production of this film. Luckily for us, audience cannot turn away from the films infectious charm, over-the-top action and one of the most violent yet entertaining action scenes to hit the screen in years.
The nature of Kingsman is that their achievements remain secret, and in many instances, where art mimics reality, it seems like the same will happen with this film. Being poorly released as the male alternative to the female fare, and highly popular worldwide sensation film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, one cannot help but notice how this film will suffer fifty shades of failure. Being shaded by an overwhelming Grey Valentine’s Day, Kingsman will surely find itself in a hole; deep and unable for itself to please the few who will actually see it. While the film ends with the potential of sequels, it seems that the title itself predicted that the film will indeed be a secret from many eager film viewers who are searching for a royally ass-kicking film!
Like a fine tailored suit; made from the highest quality tailors and materials, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a film in need of an audience crafted by a filmmaker who is as reputable and talented as the finest designers in the world. Shed those whips, collars and chains, and make sure, after your wife and girlfriend gets over all the BDSM hype and romantic Valentine’s day jitters, to see the true king of 2015’s Valentine Day weekend.
Night Film Reviews: 10 Out of 10 Stars.
What did you think of Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service? Highly respectable Bond replacement or overly executed spy, action comedy romp? Was the film too high octane for you or enough fun on screen? How were the performances? Firth? Egerton? Strong? Leave us your highly polite thoughts, and remember, “Manners maketh man!”.