It’s been awhile since we’ve had a great spy movie; not since Matt Damon’s previous incarnation of Jason Bourne in 2007’s ”The Bourne Ultimatum” can I say I’ve been particularly impressed by any that I’ve seen – and that includes the recent Bond films with Daniel Craig. However, since that series became the phenomenon that it did, subsequent spy films have replicated its serious approach. ”Kingsman: The Secret Service” injects the genre with some fun again: Ian Fleming’s iconic British agent and older film adaptations are the inspiration behind Matthew Vaughn’s caper; humour, flashy rodomontade and an eccentric villain hellbent on world extermination are all firmly present. The spirit of classic Bond is alive and well. However, much like Vaughn’s ”Kick Ass (2010)” was to superhero movies, ”Kingsman” takes the basic premise and throws in crude humour and sensational, bloody, R rated violence to crank a worn genre up a few notches.
Taron Egorton plays Gary ”Eggsy” Unwin, a down-on-his-luck petty criminal who is facing a jail sentence for stealing a vehicle from a local ruffian. But thanks to having a father Harry ‘Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth) owes a debt to, he’s miraculously cleared of all charges and recruited to join a training camp for the shadowy secret service organization Kingsman, who are led by Arthur (Michael Caine) and his knights of the round table sworn to protect Britain (the organization members are all named after characters from the old tale).
Meanwhile, the lisping lunatic Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) – an eccentric billionaire who wants to destroy the world for its own good – is set to bring an end to mankind, because he believes people are destroying the environment. With human existence in jeopardy, new recruit Eggsy is thrown in at the deep end to try and save the dead.
Valentine’s plan is quite brilliant: he uses sims in cell phones to trigger a satellite which turns human beings into homicidal maniacs. It’s the type of ludicrous, out-of-the-box villain and scenario we’ve been missing for quite some time now – and it allows for the movie to break out into some scenes of over-the-top carnage. There is one particular scene involving Colin Firth’s character, to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ”Freebird”, massacring a church full of people that’s sure to send shocks down the spines of the many middle aged housewives who’ll watch it just for him. It’s a Colin Firth we’ve never seen before – a merciless cold blooded, killer who can more than capably perform action scenes. Bridget Jones would soil her overgrown panties if she seen her man like this.
The movie does contain some not-so-subtle messages about Britain’s class divide, the danger of global warming and America’s role as a world domineering superpower. Whether you agree with the political undertones or not shouldn’t derail your enjoyment of the film; it’s more parody and satire than preaching, but it won’t sit well with some. For the entire 2 hour duration, ”Kingsman” is lighthearted fun that homages classic spy movies and throws in the crude humour and cartoon violence 21st century audiences are accustomed to. Some people may find the violence to be unnecessary to a story which didn’t need it to be enjoyable, but I loved it personally. Despite it’s charms, it’s crudeness and occasional mean streak is a much appreciated delight. At least for me. ”Kingsman” is one of 2015’s best thus far and I’m sure it’ll remain as such for the remainder of the year. 9/10
Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goodman
Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong