I attended a screening of Kingsman: The Secret Service last night. Colin Firth is excellent in his portrayal of the English king overcoming a speech impediment. Wait, I don’t think I have that quite right…
Lame jokes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) and based on a comic book by Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Wanted, Civil War). I loved their previous teaming on the Kick-Ass movie adaptation, so I was excited to see what they’d do with this one. I was not disappointed. I’m going to try to give a review without giving any spoilers, except for the ones already spoiled in the trailer(s).
Just as Kick-Ass is an ultra-violent tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of the superhero mythos, Kingsman is the same for the gentleman spy genre. Think the midway point between the Bond movies and Austin Powers. Like the Bond movies, Kingsman has suave British agents, cool gadgets and weapons, hyper-sexualized women, and a colorful, over-the-top evil supervillain bent on world destruction. Like Austin Powers, it’s aware of its silliness and stupidity, but unlike Austin Powers it doesn’t go into spoof territory. Kingsman is cliched, but it’s aware of its cliches, and actually subverts a few of them. (There is also one missed opportunity, in my opinion. It’s a “shoot the dog” moment that went all wrong.)
Kingsman is also very aware of the current worldwide political environment. Instead of a government spy agency, the Kingsman Knights are a private organization “so as not to be corrupted.” This movie serves as a catharsis for the 99% who are being screwed by governments, corporations, and banks. Internet billionaires, royalty, politicians, religious leaders, and university professors are all portrayed as ridiculous characters worthy of derision if not contempt. This movie is very un-PC, which is probably why I liked it so much. The movie effectively blurs the line between high brow and low brow, especially in the Eggsy character.
The violence. Kingsman might be the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not really gory, the violence is more about the movement and camerawork. Nonetheless, it is extremely bloody with lots of hacked limbs, impalements and gunfights. The body count might reach 1000. (Oh, that fireworks scene. The colors and motion are gorgeous. I want to say much more, but I want to stick to my “no spoilers” rule.) If you are offended by stylized cartoonish violence, you will HATE this movie. The Kick-Ass comic was more brutal and intense than the movie, I’m curious to see if the same applies here.
I loved seeing Colin Firth as an action hero. The young protege does a fine job with his role as a street urchin turned gentleman spy. Mark Strong is fantastic as the somewhat morally ambiguous Merlin. The only major issue I had with it was Samuel L. Jackson’s lisp. He sometimes forgot to use it in his line delivery, and it was a bit distracting.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top, often funny, always violent love letter to the spy genre, Kingsman will be your cup of tea. It’s a stupid movie that’s too smart for its own good.
Story: ★★★ ½ of 5
Action: ★★★★★ of 5
Comedy: ★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★★ of 5
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