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Fan favorites Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman return to adapting a Mark Millar comic-book series, making an ultra-violent action-comedy in homage of the spy movie genre; a movie that fans of Kick-Ass should love.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young man who lives in a rough area of South London with his mum (Samantha Womack) and abusive step-dad (Geoff Bell). After having a run-in with the law and his step-dad’s gang, a secret agent, Harry Hart (Colin Firth) helps out Eggsy and offers him a chance become a Kingsman, an elite secret agent, seeing the same potential he did with his father. Eggsy has to undergo a grueling training and testing regimen and battle the snobbishness of his follow candidates.
In the wider world, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), is an eccentric internet billionaire who has been mysteriously funding weapons research and has been meeting world leaders as celebrities start to suddenly disappear. Harry investigates Valentine as Eggsy goes through his training.
Kingsman: The Secret Service has all the ingredients that made Kick-Ass such a joy. Great action sequences, crude humor and witty dialogue, some unexpected casting choices and the twisting of a popular genre. Vaughn turned down the offer to direct X-Men: Days of Future Past to direct Kingsman instead, seemingly an insane decision at the time. Yet, it turned out to be a move that worked out for the best for everyone involved, giving audiences two entertaining action movies.
For an action release at this time of year, Kingsman is a bloody delight. Vaughn’s bright cinematography and eye for action are on show here. His action sequences are wonderfully fluid, with a sequence in a church being an early contender for best action scene of 2015 with the camera following Harry during a brawl. There are many continuous shots for the action sequences, the fist fights are well edited and choreographed and Vaughn lets out his inner Zack Snyder, slowing down and speeding up the action when Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) fights with her bladed legs. Like Kick-Ass, Kingsman is gloriously violent and this movie has a fantastic use of Edward Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.
Kingsman: The Secret Service has a great cast, as you would expect from a Matthew Vaughn movie. Colin Firth is the marquee star, easily setting into the action role, whether fighting thugs in a pub or in the aforementioned church sequence. The prim and proper Englishman with a well dressed exterior and refined tastes hides his real skills and shows what Firth could have been if he was cast as James Bond. He also has some of the most witty lines during the running time. Egerton is an emerging actor, having a strong physique and while he is a product of his environment, he still shows his character’s kind and compassionate heart and is confident in the action sequences.
Jackson is having a blast as the villain, a lisping billionaire who cannot stand the sight of blood or violence, though perfectly willing to let his henchmen do his dirty work. Jackson as Valentine is a Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg type billionaire with elements of Lex Luthor thrown in. He is a tech genius who has a flair for showmanship and is an older man who dresses like how he would think a much younger man would dress.
Vaughn was approached to direct Casino Royale but turned down the opportunity. Kingsman is his homage to the Bond series, particularly the older movies, having an over-the-top villain who has verbal sparring matches with the agent, a henchman with a deformity that they use to their advantage and has an elaborate lair with a private army. The Kingsmen themselves are refined men in immaculate suits with a taste for expensive alcohol and have tons of gadgets, from pens with poison to watches with darts. Even the score shares music cues to the old Bond movies. Though Kingsman pays tribute to Bond, there are some twists to the old formula, such as seduction and there are wider references to the genre. As Harry says in the trailers ‘Give me a far-fetched theatrical any day’.
Vaughn deliberately takes the posh and working class characters to their extremes. The Kingsmen are well dressed men who enjoy the finer things in life, Eggsy dresses as a stereotypical chav with a baseball cap, bright coats and a sleeveless puffer jacket and willing to use more colorful language and British hand gestures. The other candidates are all upper crust Oxbridge (use any British expletives you want) people who think that they are entitled to positions just because of the virtue of their birth. Vaughn ensures that Kingsman has an anti-deference throughout, whether it is Eggsy to the other candidates, Harry to his superiors or in relation to bigger figures during the final act.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a jolly entertaining movie people would enjoy, but it does lift a few plot points from Kick-Ass, taking away some of the originality the movie has to offer. Yet, it is a movie that has Vaughn’s signature all over it and shows he is brilliant at adapting Mark Millar’s work.