Espionage transformed into a crazy, self-aware bloodfest? Yes, please. When I first started seeing previews for Kingsman: The Secret Service, before I knew it was a Matthew Vaughn film, I thought it was going to be a clichéd kids’ movie about a troubled teenager who is turned into an unlikely hero. But between the frequent F-bombs and blood flying across the screen, I realized this is no kids’ movie. This is my kind of movie. The kind for the action lovers who get a little too much enjoyment out of a fireworks display of people’s heads getting blown off their bodies. Beyond that, it’s a love letter from Matthew Vaughn to all spy movies, and what a wonderful letter it is.
Vaughn has done for spy movies what he did for superhero movies through Kick-Ass (both adapted from Mark Millar comics). He took an overdone genre that has been taking itself way too seriously, and he breathed new life into it. Kingsman is an ode to classic James Bond movies, with the fancy gadgets and nice suits, a crazy villain with an elaborate evil plan, and a femme fatale, among other things. He took these clichés and made them original and fun, and what we got here is a movie featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a villain with a lisp who can’t stand the sight of blood, proper British gentlemen knifing people in the eye, a femme fatale who cuts people in half with her bladed prosthetic legs, and at the center of it all, a young chav with a chip on his shoulder training to become a proper British gentleman who can knife people in the eye.
Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a troubled young man whose father died when he was little, and his mother has a penchant for dating abusive losers. When a run-in with a group of thugs lands him in jail, secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) answers his call for help. Harry, who was once the mentor of Eggsy’s father, feels responsible for his father’s death, and believes he owes Eggsy the opportunity to train for a spot in the Kingsmen that was left open after fellow agent “Lancelot” (Jack Davenport) was recently killed. Eggsy’s skills and ability to follow direction are tested as he competes with other hopefuls. Meanwhile, Harry is on a mission to find out what tech savvy billionaire, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is up to when he announces his plan to give away free SIM cards that will allow people to make calls and access the internet for free.
Taron Edgerton is a welcome new talent. He’s great at being a smart-ass, and somehow still remaining a likable character. He manages to keep the spotlight amongst a cast of people who could’ve easily out-shined him. He’s convincing in the action scenes, although he doesn’t have anything as crazy to pull off as Colin Firth does.
Colin Firth, the man who most people have come to love in various rom-coms and British dramas and thrillers where he almost always portrays the proper, dapper gentleman will be surprised to see how well he does playing that same gentleman with an ultra violent twist. He’s 54-years-old and single-handedly beating the living piss out groups of people in this film. It’s insane, funny, and most of all, awesome. The church scene he’s in is probably my favorite in the movie, and not just because he turns to a homophobic, racist woman and says something along the lines of, “I’m a Catholic whore who needs to visit my black, Jewish boyfriend who works in an abortion clinic. Hail Satan.”
Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious as Valentine. It’s hard to take him seriously with that lisp. The fact that his character can’t stand the sight of blood really plays on the cliché that super villains never do their dirty work. He has Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) for that, the henchwoman with legs that make break dancing deadlier than walking into a giant blender.
Let’s not forget the rest of the supporting cast, who aid in making this movie as awesome as it is. Michael Caine is Arthur, he’s somewhat of a leader in the Kingsmen, and Merlin (Mark Strong), is the man in charge of training new recruits. Sophie Cookson is Roxy, one of the other recruits competing with Eggsy for the spot, the best part about her is that she doesn’t become the typical “love interest,” although the story could’ve easily gone there. Mark Hamill, who I didn’t even recognize at first, is a professor who is kidnapped for one reason or another, but he disappears pretty quickly.
The action is balls to the wall sort of fun. Sometimes it’s more suspenseful than anything, like when Eggsy and the other recruits jump from a plane only to be told that one of them doesn’t have a parachute, but no one knows who, or when their bunks start filling up with water while they’re sleeping. Other times it’s just amusing, like when Eggsy steals a car and does a bunch of donuts in front of its owner, leading to a car chase between him and the police.
But the violence in this movie is something else entirely. It’s incredibly over-the-top, almost cartoonish at times, like when Gazelle cuts a man clean in half and when the heads of rich men and politicians explode like fireworks. At times, it’s downright gratuitous, like in a scene where Harry massacres hate-spewing rednecks in a church while Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” plays in the background. Is any of this a bad thing? Some people who saw this and don’t take too well to Christians (even the horrible ones) being violently killed might think so. Me? I friggin’ loved it. It’s Colin Firth, for Christ’s sake! Was it necessary? No. Is it offensive? Most likely. But who cares! If you haven’t thought about how it might be sort of funny if those Westboro Baptist Church assholes got the punch in the face (not a hole in the head, I’m not that hateful, f**k) they deserve, then you must be Mother Teresa. It was hilarious, and going in to a movie like this expecting it to be serious and tasteful, especially if you’ve already seen Kick-Ass, is in the wrong state of mind. Sorry, but it’s true. A lot of people will say that Kingsman can only be enjoyed if you’re an immature teenage boy. Well, I’m neither a teenager nor a boy (but maybe a tad immature), and I enjoyed this immensely.
So to anyone wondering whether or not you should see Kingsman: The Secret Service, I would say, if you don’t mind gratuitous violence and you love Colin Firth enough to see him execute one of the craziest action sequences I’ve ever seen, if you loved Kick-Ass and you’d be interested to see a satirical twist on spy movies, and if you just simply love action movies, you should absolutely check this out. It’s not without flaws, but it’s the best time I’ve had at the theater so far this year.