Movie Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service

Back into the swing of things with a nice tame film review! JK Matthew Vaughn.

Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Caine
Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class)
Rating: MA15+

As far as spy movie send-ups go (and there are many), Kingsman: The Secret Service is not the kind of straightforward spoof you might expect going into the cinema. Yes, it’s got fine suits and fancy James Bond gadgets and a larger-than-life villain, and it certainly pokes fun at those things, while also kind of doing them really well. But it’s also a Matthew Vaughn film through and through, which means if you didn’t enjoy his irreverent, stylishly ultraviolent, occasionally uncomfortable 2010 film Kick-Ass, it’s unlikely you’ll fall for KingsmanHowever, if that movie was your cup of tea, you can expect a good time with the Brit’s latest.

The setup of Kingsman‘s plot isn’t terribly complex – a highly secretive, highly exclusive international organisation of gentlemen assassins called the Kingsmen loses a member in a very dangerous operation, and needs to replace him ASAP. Each representative from the various secret worldwide bases, complete with a Camelot-themed code name, submits a snobby candidate for replacement, except for “Galahad” (Colin Firth) who puts forward a talented young London hooligan with a troubled past named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (impressive newcomer Taron Egerton, who looks an awful lot like a British Josh Hutcherson while we’re on the topic) because of his blood connection to the deceased agent. Meanwhile the straight-up insane lisping billionaire Richmond Valentine, played hilariously by Samuel L Jackson, is cooking up a devious plot to use all the world’s smartphones to commit mass genocide in the name of saving the planet. He does this with the help of a beautiful yet brutal assistant with blades for legs.

If that doesn’t sound like the setup for a good time at the movies, I don’t know what does.

Indeed, at times Kingsman: The Secret Service feels like the closest thing to old-school James Bond flicks we’re ever going to get in today’s day and age. Despite some of the writing – and Vaughn‘s aforementioned penchant for pushing the envelope – occasionally pointing to a different kind of movie, all the campy goodness of the Connery and Moore days is here. That’s partially due to the committed performances of Jackson and Firth in the most high profile roles, not to mention a great turn from Vaughn regular Mark Strong in a “Q” kind of role. The high stakes (and high violence) action set pieces, exotic locations and mental-as-anything science fiction tangents are all quintessentially 007.

There’s a bit of My Fair Lady to it too, however, with a dash of reality television-style elimination shenanigans. For much of the film Eggsy must prove his worth as a potential Kingsman by besting the upper class douchebags around him in a series of montage-friendly challenges. This adventure is intercut at inconsistent intervals with Valentine’s oddly efficient scheming and Galahad’s attempts to thwart it, all of which makes for some unusual pacing that actually ends up feeling fresh and fun – though it does have its shortcomings when it comes to the characterisation of some of the film’s more intriguing secondary characters as a result, which is a bit of a shame.

This kind of film is always going to crash headlong into a hurricane of cliches, and some of them get riffed off pretty spectacularly, though others are played a bit straighter and just end up being straight cliches. I won’t indulge in spoilers here – I’ll just finish things off by recommending the hell out of Kingsman: The Secret Service to any fan of James Bond and/or Matthew Vaughn‘s previous work. It’s certainly worth a watch, if only to see just how much of a badass Mr Darcy himself can be.


Good principal performances, exciting action, fun pacing, Bond spirit, Firth is properly badass
Truncated characterisation, can’t dodge some cliches

515/110A M A Z I N G

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