After giving superheroes a boot in the Thunderballs with Kick Ass, Matthew Vaughn turns his Goldeneye onto the spy flick with typically brash and boisterous results.
Vaughn’s unique style has won him a legion of admirers since his much-loved 2004 debut Layer Cake; the film that went a long way to bagging its star Daniel Craig the iconic role of James Bond, who in a neatly circular turn of events is the primary influence for Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Hoping to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time following the success of Kick Ass (2010), Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman have once again teamed up with Mark Millar to loosely adapt another of his comic book series.
While Millar’s comic was set within the world of MI6, the movie decides to go even more super-secretive by focusing on the Kingsman, a spy agency so covert that 007 himself probably doesn’t know about them.
Influenced by Arthurian legend, the Kingsman are led by a round table of gentlemen spies, including Arther (Michael Caine) and Galahad, aka Harry Hart (Colin Firth). When one of their own is killed in action, Hart takes mouthy street kid Eggsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing and convinces him to go up against other young hopefuls to replace the fallen spy.
Tech tycoon Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), meanwhile, is busy trying to take over the world and it falls on what’s left of the Kingsman to put a stop to his ultra-sinister plan.
The spy movie has hardly been short of a spoof or two; hell, the godfather James Bond was sending it up most of the time during the Roger Moore years. Kingsman takes its cue from that era; from the poster which is a direct pastiche of For Your Eyes Only to the high concept plotline that really took hold during Moore’s era.
Alongside the numerous nods to Bond, there are other homages to a well-trodden genre, including The Avengers‘ (no, not that one) John Steed with the Saville Row-besuited league of gentlemen spies and liberal use of umbrellas.
While the tips of the bowler hat to 007 and co are plentiful, Vaughn and Goldman’s self-referential script is also at pains to have its cake and eat it by having its characters remind each other that “this isn’t that kind of movie” shortly before endeavouring to pull the rug out from under our feet.
The most glaring way Kingsman “isn’t that kind of movie” is through the colourful use of Anglo saxon (much like Kick Ass). As occasionally amusing as it is (pretty much every sentence uttered by Jackson drops an f-bomb; and we all know how gleefully Sammy invokes the use of that word), you suspect the thinking behind it is to see how far it can be pushed and to give us a spy drama with the shackles removed. This admittedly works quite nicely when Arthur’s well-spoken demeanour disappears at one point and the foul-mouthed cockney lurking under the surface is exposed.
The offhand ultra violence that marked Kick Ass out as a bold piece of filmmaking is also in plentiful supply here. An early bust-up in a pub is the aperitif to an unholy bloodbath in a right-wing Christian church to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird that reaches Old Testament levels of brutality and sees the camera get stuck in to the ensuing carnage.
This, and later fight scenes have a balletic quality John Woo would be proud of, although the final assault on Valentine’s secret lair by Mark Strong’s Q-esque Merlin and Eggsy leaves you wondering at what point the former tearaway learned such gracefully merciless close quarters fighting techniques (we’re left to assume he’s picked this up as the film never bothers to show us).
While it has plenty of nice touches, in particular the casting of Mark Hamill as a very convincing English professor (in the comic, the terrorists abduct an environmental scientist called Mark Hamill), it ends on a bum note with a moment of pantomime absurdity that makes Q’s infamous line from Moonraker – “I think he’s attempting re-entry sir” – seem like a moment of restraint worthy of Bergman.
It may not reach the heights of Kick Ass, but Kingman: The Secret Service is so unashamedly over-the-top it’s hard not to sign up to its licence to thrill.
Great review, love your opening sentence. You have such an excellent way with words.
Ah, cheers man. Appreciate the feedback 🙂
Too kind sir!
cant wait to see this! great review!
Cheers Rob! Muchos gracias.
Intrigued to see this!
Intrigued to read your thoughts!
I actually loved ‘Kingsman,’ I personally thought it was better than ‘Kick-Ass’ and even the latest Bond films! It was insane in the best possible way 🙂
Yeah? Probably wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s better than Skyfall, for instance, although they’re very different movies obviously!
I personally thought it was better 🙂 I had such a blast watching it!
So looking forward to this when lands on this side of pond come Friday. Thanks for the heads up, Mark.
Look forward to reading your thoughts on it mate!
The trailer that we got for this where I live made this look awful stupid and boring. Now I’m having second thoughts….
I actually hated what I saw of Kick Ass, but in a weird way this one looks entertaining. I think it is the over-the-top sense you mention. And of course it has Colin Firth.
Absolutely. Firth is great as always. I think ‘over-th-top’ is the best way I can describe it.
Gutted that I missed this last night due to that darn snow! This looks like fun, I love all the nod to Bond, all the way to that For Your Eyes Only-inspired poster! WOW, I didn’t even know Mark Hamill is in this too! Lots of pop-culture icons I see, w/ Mr Darcy and Nick Fury here also 😀
It’s your kinda movie Ruth!
All right!! I’ve got my tickets for Friday night, can’t wait!
“Ends on a bum note” – Haha! Yeah… That joke was ridiculous. But the rest of the movie was pretty fun. I really enjoyed it. Nice review. 🙂
Cheers buddy. I kinda liked that gag! That joke at the end was ridiculous wasn’t it?
Nice one, mate. I was going to bypass this one as I didn’t fancy it all, but I think I might just give it a go. Fine review as always, my man.
Thanks Mark; your comments are always appreciated. Check it out; it’s nothing amazing but good fun.
Spot on mate. Not quite up to Kick-ass standards but still pretty good and much better than I anticipated. That ‘joke’ at the end though is just so out of place, they could have done it so, so much better than that.
I’m with you on that, Chris. Favorite line of this review: “it ends on a bum note.” Lol!!!!
I patted myself on the back for that one 🙂
Haha, I thought the same thing! Very apt!
Cant wait to check this out. I LOVE over the top lol 😉 Good work on this review, man!
It’s over the top alright! Plenty of British fun! Thanks Vic.
Good grief, the fourth review I have been late to here, many apologies Mark!
Kingsman was an entertaining ride for a long while. But then inexplicably it started to go another way after that church scene. It’s got its legions of fans, quite obviously, but I gotta say I’m not among them. Unfortunately. Good to hear you did enjoy it more though man!
Get it together Tom! I thought you’d dumped me! You’re not the first person to say that and I can see your reticence about it. Maybe it’s because I’m a Brit that I like the movie…
That’s just gotta be it. 😉