- Directed by Matthew Vaughn
- December 13, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon) / January 29, 2015 (UK) / February 13, 2015 (US)
A street kid is recruited into a global spy agency just as an insane tech genius prepares to unleash his plot on the world.
For me Kingsman: The Secret Service had a very old-school James Bond vibe. Heck, this movie was made by Vaughn to make a fun spy movie because the genre had become too serious. Back in the day those movies-even the Bond ones-were fun escapist adventures. James Bond faced off against an over-the-top villain with a world threatening plan.
Good clothing. The finer things in life. Cool gadgets. It contains all the things James Bond had and does it with panache and a heavy dose of enjoyment. It is style over substance but not at the cost of quality. Kudos for this movie proving that you can do that still. Why is Eon/MGM not listening?
In this universe the fictional independent agency The Kingsman are a group of agents formed following WWI. They were founded by gentlemen and thus are to act as gentlemen spies despite their background prior to joining (though they appear to be largely chosen from the upper classes).
The fight scenes in Kingsman are just great. They are slick and stylized with a heavy dose of cool. They hold your eyes and keep you on the edge. And at points they even manage to mix in a touch of dark humor that makes them much more enjoyable.
Colin Firth, who plays Harry Hart/Galahad (all agents take on an Arthurian name), was a surprise to me. Who knew he could not only pull off a fight scene but could pull off being a tough guy too? I can certainly see him as a gentleman spy, but I really did not think that he could pull off action.
Back in the day Bond films had gimmick henchmen. Jaws had metal teeth. Nick Nack was diminutive in size. Tee Hee had a lethal mechanical arm. Xenia Onatopp crushed victims with her thighs. Odd Job had a rather lethal hat. It was all part of the fun of those films. I miss those types of characters.
Why do I bring them up? Sofia Boutella channels those same villains in her character of Gazelle who is an amputee with prosthetic running blades modified with swords. I am not big on Boutella, but she killed it here. I do not think she is quite made for main roles, but she can really work magic such as here in significant supporting roles.
The fight scenes with Gazelle are some of the best I have seen in years. The character gimmick gives them something special that would be lacking with a more grounded foe. And Boutella is just having fun which translates well to the audience.
Taron Egerton plays Gary “Eggsy” Unwin who is a street thug that despite his gifts has chosen a lesser life. His father years prior had saved Harry at the cost of his own life and Harry, feeling responsible, decides to give Eggsy a chance to be better. Egerton does a great job of transforming from damaged street thug to gentleman agent.
Samuel L. Jackson is a great actor. He shows up here as tech genius/billionaire Valentine who could be argued to be a very evil Mark Zuckerberg. Jackson took the part because of a career long dream to be in a Bond film (are you listening Eon/MGM?!) and felt it was unlikely to happen so he took the next best thing. He is a villainous asshole and just so very good to watch here. You need an appealing villain and Valentine is just that.
Somehow Valentine is going to heal the planet by giving away free Sim cards which are able to broadcast a signal which makes everybody go homicidal. I am not exactly sure how that helps but then again being styled in the mold of the Bond villain you always had to ask how their plans that appeared to have lofty goals actually helped. The villain in Moonraker comes to mind right away. He was going to poison the human race and then repopulate but his plan would probably make Earth toxic to humans for a very long time.
Rounding out the cast is Mark Strong as Merlin, Mark Hamill (underused here) as Professor James Arnold, and Michael Caine as Kingsman leader Chester King/Arthur. They all do great. Strong in particular essentially becomes the heart of the team even if Eggsy is the central character.
There is a lot of world building here. The actual plot that they need to overcome is dealt with in only I would say about a third of the movie. But the world building is just so good and enjoyable. They get you invested in the characters and make their hidden world believable.
There is a good story with good action and good actors but this film’s strongest selling point for me is that it is fun. It does not take itself too seriously. It is a stylized action and an escapist fantasy. You are meant to sit back and enjoy and maybe get a chuckle or two along the way.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a very good film. It is fun and a little silly and just downright entertaining. I say watch it!