FILM REVIEW: Kingsman: The Secret Service

When did spy films get so dull?

Sure, they have suspense but in recent years the genre has almost completely turned its back on its gadget laden, martini sipping roots. Today’s spies are gruff and frowning, their vehicles practical and uni-functional, and as for the villains; not an eye-patch or razor edged bowler hat in sight.

Thrilling as the Bournes and Bauers are, I can’t help but ask (in my best Joker voice) : “Why so serious?

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the grenade filled custard pie in the face the genre needs. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) the film stars Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson and Colin Firth.

Egerton plays ‘Eggsy’, a frustrated youth who lives in a run-down flat with his mum and her abusive partner. After getting in trouble with the police, Eggsy is approached by Firth’s Harry Hart (codename Galahad), an agent for secret intelligence organization, Kingsman, who recruits him as his protégé .

As the ruthless training methods take their toll on the other Kingsman recruits, Eggsy begins to realize his potential as a secret agent. When the sinister plans of a deluded billionaire places the life of his mentor and the entire world in danger, the rookie must call on all of his new skills to save the day.

Egerton does well in the physically demanding role of the hero in training. While the ‘yoof in a room full of toffs’ jokes start to wear thin pretty quickly, Eggsy is a likeable hero, adopting the swagger of Bond without the associated snobbery.

Colin Firth also stands out. Agent Galahad’s smooth British charm is reminiscent of many of the actor’s previous aristocratic roles. However, this demeanor is cast aside in film’s audacious, ketchup spattered fight scenes where our experienced spy switches from English gent to bloodthirsty killing machine in an instant.

For me, however, it is Samuel. L.Jackson’s lisping villain, Valentine that really steals the show. The squeamish psychopath is a wonderful self-aware parody of traditional Bond villains and Jackson’s natural fan boy charisma ensures some of the best dialogue in the film.

The performances across the board are great, but hats off to Matthew Vaughn for really getting the tone of the film right. Kingsman is loosely based on Mark Millar’s Secret Service comic book series published in 2012. Vaughn has had success adapting Millar’s work before with Kick-Ass in 2010. What I liked the most about Kick-Ass was the Vaughn’s ability to balance the cartoon utra-violence with moments of genuine emotion where you really got a chance to like the characters. Fortunately he maintains this balance in Kingsman, ensuring the end result is so much more than just over blown Bond parody.
Kingsman grinds some much-needed edge into the spy genre. The plot is simple with plenty of gags and bonkers action. It doesn’t have time to be clever; it’s too busy being big, brash and outrageously fun.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Dan Tovey

 

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