If you saw the trailers for ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ and thought it was just a James Bond spoof, you may want to reconsider. It’s
actually a damn good James Bond spoof.
Based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, ‘Kingsman’ is hilarious, edgy and stylish.
The Kingsmen are a secret order of spies seeking a replacement for an agent killed in action. Colin Firth’s Galahad looks to the young Gary
‘Eggsy’ Unwin, whose father was also a Kingsman. Eggsy is pit against fellow recruits in a series of tests to find the best potential Kingsman.
Meanwhile, a villainous tech entrepreneur evilly plots evil things.
The concept is seemingly simple and cliché, but the execution is exceptional.
Director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn achieves a rarity in parody films; an amusingly self-aware tone combined with character and style
unique enough to stand on their own.
On a side note, the film also has some fun connections to Vaughn’s previous work.
His directorial debut (2004’s ‘Layer Cake’) is considered by many to have played a large part in Daniel Craig’s selection as 007.
It’s also hard to not think of his entry in the X-Men series (First Class) when the young recruits are going through spy training at an estate
very similar to Professor X’s.
Unlike that film, however, ‘Kingsman’ proudly boasts an R rating, never skimping on extreme violence and the occasional bit of
unexpectedly edgy humor. Eggsy’s motivation to save the world at the end of the film is absolutely priceless.
The film wonderfully contrasts the refined sensibilities of its veteran British cast (Which includes Michael Caine and Mark Strong in addition
to Firth), with the likes of Taron Egerton as Eggsy and even Samuel L. Jackson as the evil tech genius, Valentine.
Jackson is particularly excellent in his role, going for broke with wacky mannerisms and a lisp.
We even get to have a cross-generational Jedi meeting when Jackson shares a scene with Mark Hamill, who has a cameo as Professor
Arnold. And if that’s not enough, in the comic, Hamill’s character is actually a Hollywood actor named Mark Hamill, while Arnold is the name
of the villain. And what was Jackson’s character in ‘Jurassic Park’ named? Mr. Arnold.
Spy film fans will also love when Galahad and Valentine discuss their fondness for the old Bond films, as well as the genre’s obvious tropes.
There’s even a scene that references how many famous agents have had the initials J.B.
But even for those who aren’t espionage aficionados, ‘Kingsman’ is good enough to exist, and entertain, beyond its obvious influences.
The film’s action sequences are stunningly choreographed, shot and edited. Imagine the chaos of ‘The World’s End’ paired with fluid
precision of ‘John Wick’ and you come close to Vaughn’s impressive action direction. Is it possible that competently and coherently shot
fight sequences are making a comeback? Either way, ‘Kingsman’ provides quite a spectacle.
Vaughn’s visual style extends beyond the action, using a wide variety of fluid, sweeping shots to further energize the film. Sure, many of
them are aided by suspect digital effects, but we’re not exactly going for gritty realism here, after all.
Even the score by the usually generic Henry Jackman provides some fun orchestral bombast.
‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is an absolute blast. Whether you’re a devoted spy fan or not, this is an outrageous and entertaining film
that wraps itself in nostalgia, while still remaining an entirely unique production.
‘Kingsman’ may be mindless entertainment, but it’s among the best of its kind.
* * *
(out of four)
THE SECRET SERVICE
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong,
Taron Egerton, Michael Caine
Music by: Henry Jackman & Matthew Margeson
Cinematography by: George Richmond
Released: February 13, 2015; 129 Minutes