February 15, 2015

Movie Review: Kingsman - The Secret Service

When I first saw a trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service, I was not sure what it was going for; however, seeing that Matthew Vaughn was listed as director, I was certainly interested. The guy has a solid track record, with movies like Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class on his resume. The big question going in was what he would bring to this. No, I was not aware of the comic book origins, but it seems to make sense with the over top nature of the tale. It strikes me as a blending of movies like Layer Cake and Kick-Ass, with the result being a spy movie and superhero movie being rammed into each other.

Kingsman is as endlessly entertaining as it is sporadic in tone. I am not sure they ever really settled on what the serious side versus the silly over the top side ratio should be. With that being the case, it never feels all that cohesive. This ultimately saps it from greatness, but it is still massively entertaining and a good bit crazier than I was expecting it to be. On top of that, the tale has a heart that will affect you. Sure, it disappears on occasion in favor of an action bit or a comedic interlude, but it is there.

The movie sets up the Kingsman organization as a super secret spy ring that goes beyond James Bond and MI6. It is an organization that keeps its deeds secret and draws an inspiration and a line dating back to the knights of the round table. To that end, the members get code names that we know as the old knights, Lancelot, Galahad, and the like. Also, standing in for Bond's gadget maker, Q, is Merlin (played here by Mark Strong). With this Bond-like spy agency and the irreverent attitude, this feels like a take on making a James Bond Jr., only more irreverent and a touch silly.

Anyway, there is an opening on the round table, so the members are all to provide a potential candidate for testing. Galahad's (Colin Firth) choice is the son of a former Kingsman, a young hooligan named Eggsy (Taron Egerton). A young fellow with a high level of talents, living the hooligan life to be close to his mom and jerk of a step dad. Anyway, Galahad sees potential in the young man and gets him into the candidate testing.

The movie splits the candidate testing with a new worldwide threat, an internet billionaire named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). He and his second in command, Gazelle (aSofia Boutella) whose legs have been replaced with running blades that have actual extending blades, are working on a plan to thin the world's population. It is a result of a fairly interesting theory that involves climate change and over-population.

These two threads play back and forth before becoming one tapestry in the final third of the film, where Eggsy is forced to stand up and truly show what he is made of. The movie is pretty crazy and certainly feels modeled after the Bond films. It is highlighted by a couple of spectacular action sequences, such as one in a chuch of Westboro Baptist types where Valentine tests his plan to increase aggression and remove inhibitions. Galahad is affected here and the violence plays out while “Freebird” plays on the soundtrack.

Kingsman: The Secret Service works. It may have issues holding it back, but that does not dampen the entertainment value. It is crass, vulgar, and violent. This R-rated entertainment. It has heart but does not shy away from anything. It has an interesting story told in a familiar format. If you like action and want to have fun, this is one to check out.


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