Kingsman Film Review
“Nowadays they’re all a little serious”, quips Colin Firth when asked about spy films. The success of the revamped thinking man’s Bond and the genre-defining Bourne series suggests there’s a clammer for espionage material to be taken in earnest. But Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn’t adhere to trend with a genre subverting comic book thriller for the old-school purists who like their action bloody and their jokes with a wink.
Matthew Vaughn returns to the screen with his third comic adaptation in a row and also to the creator of the source material for his first in Kiss Ass’ Mark Millar. Based on the 2012 comic series The Secret Service, Kingsman is scribed by Vaughn’s regular pen-pal Jane Goldman and sees the duo take on the world of superspy. And with a fair amount of success too.
The plot revolves around an elite espionage team called Kingsman who’s secret base is a tailor shop on the high-end Savile Row. Our guide into this world is Harry Hart (played by an excellently cast Colin Firth) who looks far more Harry Palmer than he does 007. Just to emphasise the point, the original Harry, Michael Caine, plays our Harry’s boss.
During an opening scene which starts in the Middle East with a helicopter, two missiles and one of the truly great music intros in Dire Straits ‘Money For Nothing’ (Vaughn knows how to grab your attention), Harry loses one of his team during a failed capture attempt and vows to keep an eye on his comrade’s family including his young son Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin. All grown-up, Eggsy is a council estate tearaway and lands himself in the slammer after a joyride. With nowhere left to turn, he rings a number that was left by Harry during his infancy.
True to his word, Harry takes Eggsy under his wing. With the agency a man down after an agent is killed, Eggsy is put forward for intensive training up against Oxbridge toffs – though he does make an ally in rival candidate Roxy (Sophie Cookson).
Every spy film needs a good villain and here we’re served up a lisp-ridden biotech pioneer Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). The ridiculousness of Sam L.’s performance may lose some audience but Kingsman is unashamedly self-aware and his turn as Valentine is thoroughly inkeeping with Vaughn and Millar’s subversion of spy films. It’s plain fun. It’s so fun (and true to the original comic) that Mark Hamill gets a cameo as a bearded computer nerd who gets captured by Valentine and his sensational henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Just like every film need a good villain, every good villain needs a henchman with memorable characteristics. Gazelle has this in abundance as she slices up foes with her ‘blade runner’ style legs. If you think the love-child of Oscar Pistorius and Oddjob – you won’t be too far off.
It should be said that the fight sequences are as good as anything you’ll see in the genre with Gazelle providing something truly different and Vaughn’s keen eye for detailed damage. He doesn’t let up on the gore either in one of the film’s stand-out set-pieces at a church. We lost body count. Sorry, Father.
Colin Firth, who apparently performed more stunts than you’d believe he’s capable of doing, is a revelation in his first real turn to action, cracking one-liners and demolishing thugs with his gentleman’s umbrella. His relationship with Eggsy is the real draw here, though, and Egerton’s chemistry with Firth keeps the film firing along perfectly. Mark Strong is also good value as Eggsy’s trainer at Kingsman HQ.
Kingsman does, however, lose it’s way in the final third of the film where Egerton can’t quite maintain our attention for the full duration. There’s also some questionable assertions about class throughout that could otherwise be ignored if the plot didn’t insist you thought about them.
Baring a completely out-of-character slither of sexism in the film’s crescendo, there’s lots to like about Kingsman. It’s unapologetic, witty and styled with guns, gadgets and thrills aplenty. Mission accomplished.
Kingsman Film Review: 4 Stars