Kingsman: The Secret Service may set a new bar for the most diverse acts of ultra-violence in a spy flick. It should come with a warning, which I am relaying to you now, that this is not for the squeamish. Valentine’s weekend is a fascination choice for release of this fearless, subversive spy spoof by director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). It takes Roger Moore-era Bond and ups the ante by adding moral and societal messages about class, manners, and loyalty. Vaughn takes the story and action way way over the top, gambling that from that vantage point, larger truths can be revealed. It works completely, and what’s more, it’s a hoot.
Kingsman strikes me as the twisted lovechild of a 14 year old burgeoning comic nerd and a bespoke-suited gentleman. What better way to bring us this deliciousness than with a cast including some of the most sophisticated villains, spies, and heroes in recent film history. Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine all share the screen with newcomer Taron Egerton. There isn’t a weak role or portrayal in the cast. Firth subverts all the characters for which he is best known by playing Harry Hart, a gentleman who can handle a pub full of goons, rendering them unconscious without wrinkling his suit. He plays Pygmalion to the son of a former agent, young street kid Eggsy (Egerton), taking him under his wing despite the objections of his snobbish boss Arthur (Michael Caine). Mark Strong, who plays a Bond-like ‘Q’ of sorts, is at his very best, and I can’t remember ever enjoying him more onscreen. He should play more sympathetic characters, as he wears it very well. Jackson is at once hilarious and terrifying as the film’s villain.
One thing that makes Kingsman so compelling is, unlike most spy movies, the audience can depend on nothing. We learn early on that anyone, no matter who it is, is expendable. It’s a ballsy choice, but one that keeps us all connected and rooting for the characters in a more committed way.
This is the sort of movie that isn’t exactly date material, unless of course your love interest doesn’t mind seeing rapid fire scenes of violence including people being impaled through the eyes and such. Personally, I enjoyed it, and at one point was even laughing out loud. In the bloodiest scenes Vaughn obviously has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, but I could see some more sensitive viewers finding them objectionable.
Kingsman deserves audiences as enthusiastic as those involved in making the film. If some of the best actors working today beating each other and villains to a pulp while building fascinating characters sounds interesting to you, by all means support this great, extremely fun movie while it’s in theaters. We need more people making movies like this one, with such wild abandon. Fans should embrace it the same way.
4 out of 5 stars