Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service (2014)

Kingsman: The Secret Service (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2014)  – Veteran spy Harry Hart recruits street kid Eggsy for a competitive training programme, as the agency comes face to face with a global threat.

Verdict

For those who like their James Bond film a little more Kick-Ass – massively fun and bloody mental.

4/5

Review

Wish Bourne was a little less moody, or Bond a little well… kick-Ass? Director Matthew Vaughn has just made your dream spy franchise happen.

Launching into a half-accomplished rescue, Kingsman makes a striking opening. The introductory mission sets the movie’s singular tone of spirited brutality and absolute absurdity, slowing down only to introduce the roundtable of modern knights.

Filling in for the Galahad alias is veteran agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth). In the spirit of sharp guises and unlikely heroes, his debonair leading role is a fake-out. Occasionally ticked off by lacking manners, he loses none of that class when his spark leaves the room bloody and his suit unstained.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
The only thing that can make this photo more British is tea.

The refined gentleman is set to pave the way for Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a street kid deficient in the art of savoir-faire. Gradually, the inexperienced lad wins us over as he reveals tricks up his tailored sleeve.

In crafting a new hero, writer Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) does yet another exceptional job. Together with Vaughn, she delivers a discerning screenplay that succeeds in both flair and comedy. With Eggsy’s back story, the solid script surprises in striking a chord in equal parts.

Behind the source material are graphic novelists Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, whose unexampled handiwork has long achieved admiration. Fans will not be disappointed. As with all Millar’s comics adaptation, style maketh film. This sits right with the action genre that revels in slick choreography and weaponry tricks. See: The Raid, Banlieue 13, or Millar’s own Wanted.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Who wants to see a face/off between this guy and Jet Li?

Trading superhero costumes for posh suits in Kingsman, the song remains the same. Pushing boundaries, Millar’s usual rules apply in the department of raunchy language and ultra-violence, complete with puerile humour and fetish gear. Depending on individual preferences, it is far too easy to fault or enjoy a film like this, especially when an overarching elaborate plan pushes it further over-the-top.

Samuel L. Jackson Nic Cages it up as tech mogul Valentine, whose idea of cause for celebration is a decimated population. His formidable henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) has blades for legs. There is nothing I can add to improve this sentence.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Like Gogo Yubari, but with weaponised prosthetics. Let’s take a moment to think about it.

Dressed to kill, her character is mostly forgotten, until summoned for some slicing action. In other disappointing news, her showdown pales in comparison with what Colin Firth gets in his brilliantly ridiculous chapel scene (underscored by ‘Freebird’, its best use since Elizabethtown).

But the homage to old spy thrillers is still nothing short of entertaining, as it works in a mélange of Bond references, most of which add to more than a few chuckles. That includes a nymphomaniac princess as a throwback to the classic sexism of an average Bond film, incidentally one of the worst students at the Bechdel test.

Kingsman seems at least professedly self-aware at its depiction of genre tropes. The risqué bits are often funnier than they are offensive. Well-executed and unafraid of controversy, Kingsman: The Secret Service is the rare excellent exemplar of genuinely fun action-entertainment.

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