Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) is not known for subtly in his films. Vaughn’s love for balls-to-the-wall action and over the top sequences are on full display in his new action comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Based on a comic book series by Mark Millar, ‘The Secret Service’, Kingsman follows a young man named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) being recruited into the Kingsman by Galahad (Colin Firth). Eggsy and Galahad’s relationship started when Eggsy was a young boy when his dad saved Galahad’s life during a mission in the Middle East. Indebted to his father, Galahad promised to help Eggsy if he ever needed it.
Seventeen years later, another Kingsman agent falls during a mission to retrieve missing scientist Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill). With a vacancy in the Kingsman, each agent is tasked with bringing in a new recruit – Galahad chooses Eggsy as his recruit and introduces him to the independent international intelligence agency known as The Kingsman.
Eggsy is the figurative kid from the other side of the tracks – good student with a high IQ who gave up school because of his living situation and turn to drugs and petty crimes. He’s the cliché character with all the potential in the world but made bad choices in his formative years because of his situation at home. That trope is almost as old as cinema itself.
While Eggsy and the other recruits embark on “the most dangerous job interview in the world”, Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) investigate tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) who they believe is behind the death of their fellow agent. Never mind Valentine dressing like a 2003 FUBU model, Valentine and his bodyguard/assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) use his philanthropy to disguise a heinous plot to wipe out most of the world’s population.
As Eggsy starts to find purpose in his life by means of the Kingsman training, the looming threat of Valentine’s doomsday grows larger and larger.
Everything about Kingsman is cliché, and that’s precisely makes it a satisfying film to watch. Not only is Eggsy dripping in movie stereotypes, Galahad and Valentine are spy movie carbon copies themselves. Galahad’s fearlessness and nobility is matched by Valentine’s cartoonish villain behavior and evil billionaire persona. There’s even a tongue-and-cheek exchange between the two about spy movies that pokes fun at their characters.
In the hands of another director, Kingsman might’ve fallen flat, but Vaughn’s ability to elevate characters, plot points, and action sequences helps him avoid face-planting on film. He’s incredible. Vaughn took the seriousness of the spy genre – the suits, tailor shop/hideout,old-timey cars, and gentlemen banter – and adds a ballet of attitude, band langue, and enough violence to get Michael Bay’s attention. The best part is Vaughn’s ability to keep your attention focused on the screen and never lose the integrity of the story or stop the audience from empathizing with the characters.
Between the melees and F-bombs, Kingsman does take a minute to talk about purpose, sacrifice, and what it means to be gentlemen. It also makes you want to go buy a suit the moment the film is over.
Don’t worry, Kingsman never takes itself too serious. There’s Gazelle’s prosthetic legs made out of razor sharp blades (nobody ever looks shocked to see them) or the insane church fight to remind audiences the movie is mean to be fun 1st, funny 2nd, and serious 456th. Not to mention the action is punched up as only Matthew Vaughn can do.
Kingsman: The Secret Service may not be for everyone due to the expressive language, explicit violence, and even more expressive language. The biggest surprise is how funny the film is. The film is not afraid to laugh at itself. It manages to be hysterical at all the right times and I’m not talking about Samuel L Jackson’s lisp. If you’re a fan of Vaughn’s previous work, Kick-Ass and Layer Cake, Kingsman is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift to yourself.