Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
In advance of Kingsman: The Golden Circle arriving in theaters in September 2017, it might be worth looking at Matthew Vaughn's surprise box office hit from 2015, which skewers James Bond-style spy films with comedy, innovative fighting sequences, lots of violence, and a rambling series of sophomoric jokes and crass humor.
The film will try the patience of some viewers, the random fits of violence and blue humor notwithstanding. Kingsman: The Secret Service embraces a smug, misogynistic world, where female characters are lesser, and the plot makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Breaking open the box office in February 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service came from out of nowhere. A rapid-fire, action comedy, spoofing James Bond and spy movies in general, Matthew Vaughn's film wowed and divided audiences in equal measure. Revisiting it, on the eve of its sequel arriving in theaters, the movie is, at times, both fun and a laborious chore to endure.
Vaughn, who wrote the screenplay with his wife and collaborator Jane Goldman, basing it from a comic book series, gives us a Kingsman origin story which begins in 1997, in the Middle East. Secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) has his life saved by a colleague. Back on British soil, he gives a pendant to the man's son, Gary, nicknamed "Eggsy" (Taron Egerton). A number on the back is identified as a way to contact Hart, should Eggsy or his family ever need any help.
And of course he does, but not until some 17 years later when Hart is summoned and frees Eggsy from authorities for stealing a car. Hart selects him to join a Kingsman recruitment program, as they seek a new "Lancelot." The previous bearer of such a nickname (Jack Davenport) is literally sliced in half by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), an assassin with sharpened Oscar Pistorious-style blades for legs.
Gazelle is a sidekick for billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, in full lisp mode), who has orchestrated a plan to provide the world with free internet and phone calls. He also seeks to reduce the Earth's population and his free SIM cards are secretly designed to turn people into bloodthirsty killers when a signal is set off in their phones.
Right. Okay then.
Meanwhile, Eggsy joins several other prospective recruits, who all undergo a series of challenges designed to see how they respond when faced in perilous, life-or-death scenarios. On top of that, Lancelot's death came when he was attempting to rescue a Professor (Mark Hamill). His returns coincides with his sudden and untimely demise when a chip implanted in his neck explodes, killing him instantly.
Additionally, Eggsy finds a rival during training in Roxy (Sophie Cookson). When Eggsy falters in the final trial. Roxy emerges as the new Lancelot, and Eggsy is left to deal with terrible home life with an abusive step-father, intoxicated mother, and infant sister.
So, at 128 minutes, there is a lot of movie here to sift through and say what you will, but Kingsman: The Secret Service is never boring. Vaughn moves the film along at a gingerly gait, and though the film carries a smug arrogance about it, there is also a sophistication to all of this which could make the more any more stereotypically British, if you tried. Honestly, you just can't help but admire it's hubris.
Everyone looks to be having a ball and Firth, especially, comes alive in a role that one would not anticipate him playing. He dominates in two impressive and hyper-violent action scenes (some terrific editing helps with our willing suspension of disbelief), killing or maiming a couple hundred folks along the way.
Egerton is a nice surprise, morphing from a criminally inclined young man to a dapper, suit-wearing movie-made spy. The movie transitions over to him as Firth exits a little over the halfway mark and, Egerton shines in the scenes where he must prove his abilities to the other Kingsmen, Merlin (Mark Strong) and Arthur (Michael Caine), before he is allowed to work alongside the organization.
Jokes come often, but not all of them land. Plus, the movie embraces a crassness that starts to grate on the nerves, culminating in a raunchy joke involving the Princess of Sweden (Hanna Alström) that comes from literally out of nowhere.
Vaughn, again, simply cannot help himself and his embracing of excess is counterbalanced by really sharp production design, a sleek look, and a cast having a grand old time. However, Vaughn slathers on the misogyny thick and dense, unable to find ways to treat women respectfully in his screenplay with Goldman. Every female character, including Roxy, exists to please, service, or take praise, or abuse, from a male counterpart.
For a movie spoofing James Bond, you would hope that the gags were a little more tilted to the feminine side of the ledger, but apparently the misogyny of old is still alive and well. For some, this will be a non-factor, the action sequences and violence and pompous nature of the proceedings outweigh all the rest. Well, alright. Come see, come saw.
Overall, Kingsman: The Secret Service is stylish, inventive, and very well made from a technical standpoint. Yet, even in the film's self-referential moments, Kingsman: The Secret Service is all window dressing.
Like the tailor's window which operates as a store front for the Kingsman's secret headquarters, everything looks fantastic on the outside, but once you try the suit on for size, you recognize that lots of alterations need to be made before this is really a film ready to wear.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Samantha Womack, Geoff Bell, Edward Holcroft, Mark Hamill, Jack Davenport, Jack Cutmore-Scott, Lily Travers, Hanna Alström.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Adapted from the comic book "The Secret Service" by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
Release Date: February 13, 2015
20th Century Fox