Kingsman: The Secret Service Review
JAMES BOND + KICK ASS = KINGSMAN
English born director Matthew Vaughan has seen success over the years, partaking in the filmmaking fields of director, screenwriter and producer. First starting as a producer, Vaughan produced several noted British films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch before directing his first film in 2004 with the cult classic Layer Cake. He then continued on directing with the fantasy film Stardust and tackled the superhero world with films Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class. Now 20th Century Fox brings Vaughan’s next feature film to big screen with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Does this graphic novel adaptation translate well from page to screen or has the allure of spy thrillers gone out?
Kingsman follows the story of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a misguided and wayward young man who suffered a great loss when his father died mysteriously when he was younger. After a run in with the law, Eggsy, by chance, comes across Harry Hart (Colin Firth) with the attention of enlisting the youthful punk into Kingsman, a sort of secret service agency that shares ideals of Arthurian nobility and spy gadget weaponry. Feeling up to the task, Harry places the Eggsy in the Kingsman’s training process, introducing the lad to the grueling spy world through several indoctrinated tests of teamwork, problem solving, and loyalty. As Eggsy rises to the challenges presented before him, he and the other Kingsman agents soon face a formable foe in Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), an maniacal billionaire that’s about to launch a disastrous weapon that will change the world.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Based on the graphic novel titled Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman draws inspiration from its source material, while expanding the original story for a larger scale adventure befitting a feature film. Vaughan, who has previous adapted Millar’s other graphic novel Kick Ass, returns to the Millar’s foray (dropping out as director for X-Men: Days of Future Past) and channels the same filmmaking style he used Kick Ass into this spy thriller. With the film’s release pushed back several months, anticipation has been building for this picture. The result is a stylish, but problematic spy homage (or spoof) of a movie that definitely has its own swagger with a mixture of snarky comedy and R-rated action that may or may not be off putting for some.
The spy / espionage genre has special affinity to it, but has, more or less, been done and redone over the years with not much really new being presented (with the only exception of a more grittier action involved in Daniel Craig’s James Bond features). Kingsman uses the influence of spy genre and plays upon those iconic nuances from the past, while, at the same time, spinning its own yarn. Gadgets, gizmos, secret agents, henchmen, and a world dominating villain in a mountain-based lair are always present and sort of a genetic makeup for the movie. Yet, despite these throwback traits, Kingsman adds its own twist, modernizing the story with a sort Steve Jobs-esque villain in Valentine and the usage of technology in the 21st Century.
As stated above, Vaughan seems to hone in his action prowess from the Kick Ass movies as Kingsman doesn’t shy away with scenes (one in particular involving Colin Firth’s character halfway through the feature) that move from bold, to bloody, to brutal, and even a little over-the-top / cartoonish. Besides the action, Kingsman is also very stylish and visual appealing. While it won’t undermine a big budgeted blockbuster, the film’s cinematography by George Richmond is commendable. Problems do arise in the movie at various points with a couple of scenes that drag with slow pacing, creating an elongated feature that possibly could of shaved off ten or fifteen minutes of its running time. Another is in its repetitive nature of excessive violence. While I feel that there’s nothing wrong with the way Vaughan’s style of violence (in this movie or in his previous works), but the second half of the film is more devoted to a cacophony of ridiculous prone acts of violence that’s something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It overstays its welcome, pulling focus off of the main story and partially loses its appeal.
While the story’s narrative is automatically recognizable and Vaughn’s visual flair permeates the film, Kingsman most favorable trait, to me, is in assemblage of its characters and the cast of actors that play them. First and Foremost, Colin Firth does an amazing job as Harry Hart (or known as his Kingsman codename Galahad). While always befitting the calm and stiff-upper-lip British gentlemen character, Firth does a surprisingly well as secret agent / action hero. Newcomer Taron Egerton does a good and convincing job as youthful main character of Eggsy. His charismatic persona works well for his character and definitely holds his own against the film’s other big time actors. Samuel L. Jackson does a great job as the villainous Valentine, a character that has the makings of classic James Bond villain, but creates a unique character with a Russell Simmons-esque lisp, flashy getup, and comedic lines. More in supporting roles, Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is an interesting henchman (or rather Henchwoman) for Valentine (performing visual feats with her metal prosthetics legs, Mark Strong has a surprising larger role in Kingsman as Merlin one of the agency’s instructors, and the always dependable Michael Caine as the Kingsman leader Arthur. Rounding out the cast and dedicated to cameo roles is actors Jack Davenport and Mark Hamill (who I couldn’t recognize. Props to him and the makeup department).
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a mixture of James Bond and Kick Ass put together that’s likeability might vary from person to person. Some will completely embrace Vaughan’s personal spin to the spy genre, while others might slight the film as obnoxious, uber-violent, and repetitive. Myself, I choose somewhere in the middle, but more on movie’s favorable side. While it does drag at certain points and possibly a little too repetitive with its violent bombardment, the ensemble cast is excellent and the story has a distinct feeling of an old spy / James Bond movie that also carries its own modern bravado measure of comedy and action. Whether homage or spoof, Kingsman is definitely unique and one-of-kind.