Synopsis: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. (From IMDb)
Review: In this film, a group of daring tailors risk life and limb in order to protect the realm. Then again, all these tailors work for a specialized shop in London known as Kingsmen. However, the store is not much of a clothier after all, it is merely a front for the private super-secret spy agency known as The Kingsmen. Brought to life by director Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman attempts to tell a story that falls somewhere between the ridiculousness of Austin Powers and the staying power of James Bond. Unlike other comic book movie adaption, this film is a rather hard R. This is not necessarily a problem, but some of the cursing and bloody gore seemed a tad forced at certain points. There is also a rather crude scene near the end of the film that goes against the values the protagonist supposedly upholds. This scene seemed randomly thrown in for a cheap laugh, even though it was not necessary or particularly humorous.
Vaughn has previously directed X-Men:First Class and Kick-Ass, so it is easy to see why he would want to adapt The Secret Service graphic novel. Along with Jane Goldman, Vaughn’s frequent collaborator, he has an eye for picking unconventional comic book stories to adapt. With this film, Vaughn aimed to both update and lambaste the tired clichés in the spy genre. The stellar cast is in on the joke and seem to relish each moment. Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill, and Colin Firth all give slightly overly serious performances that work perfectly with the subject material. In any other film they would all stick out for over acting, but it works well in this glossy spy caper. The film contains several clever moments, especially when Harry Hart, Firth, introduces Eggsy to the perks of being a Bond-style super spy: perfectly crafted cocktails, hidden weapons, clever weapons, secret lairs, and high-tech cars. However, Vaughn constantly pushes the envelope and sometimes goes a little too far. The political statements veer between liberal and conservative, depending upon the scene but are quite muddled and make little sense. And the violence is a little over the top and ends with the most gruesome fireworks display depicted on screen.
Perhaps the most horrific scene takes place in a church. The villain tests out his master plan which causes people’s inhibitors to turn off and amplifies aggression receptors. This leads to a bloodbath with no survivors. People are shot, stabbed, skewered, and crushed in close up detail. A lot of blood flies through the air and mangled bodies collide into walls and with each other. And the scene afterward is just as disgusting. Outside of these handful of scenes of extreme violence, the movie has some excellent parts. If you strip away all the curse words, exploding body parts, and slicing blades, the remaining parts detail a story about redemption and self-improvement. And how one man took a troubled youth under his wing and showed him that he could make a positive difference in the world. Harry Hart is an excellent character and Eggsy is a tough lad who come across as a likable jerk.
Colin Firth is excellent as the well-dressed and well-mannered spy, Harry Hart. He is probably the best part of the movie and I wish he was slightly more developed. Firth adds a much needed infusion of charm to the movie, whether he is enjoying a drink or confronting a group of hooligans in a pub. Hart is a sophisticated spy along the lines of Sean Connery, he is much more charming than the action super spies of today. It is nice to see Firth play a character who can complete missions without taking names, although he is always polite to everyone be they friend or foe. He is a consistently charming character, even when the rest of the Kingsmen are going crazy. Overall, Harry is depicted as a loyal and caring individual who wants to help Eggsy improve his life. When Harry first meets Eggsy, he gives the younger man no slack whatsoever. Eggsy is a smart but aimless young man and Harry believes the Kingsmen will provide him with a purpose. Harry quotes Ernest Hemingway to get his point across: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Taron Egerton plays the slightly downtrodden Eggsy. He is the right mix of charm and rough around the edges. Eggsy begins with many fine qualities: he loves his mother, has given up many opportunities to protect her from her abusive boyfriend, and he is quite loyal. His loyalty is slightly misguided when it comes to not snitching on his law breaking friends, but serves him well in trying to succeed in a super-secret spy agency. As his training continues, his finer qualities are honed and come to light. He is one of the only recruits willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the Kingsmen and his fellow agents. Well, he is willing to sacrifice anything except his dog. Life in the Kingsmen service is treated as being disposable, but death is always played up for laughs. However, Egerton does a great job with the material given to him and infuses Eggsy with an easy-going charm. He holds his own while sharing the screen with Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, and Mark Strong. Overall, he is a promising young actor and one of the more likable characters in the film.
If you think the James Bond franchise has become too serious, Kingsman beings back a lot of irreverence to the spy genre. Instead of a dapper gentleman spy, there is a streetwise young man who gleefully pushes the boundaries. And there is Samuel L Jackson’s stuttering villain who is determined to destroy humanity in order to save the Earth. Jackson clearly had fun playing the role of a tech-genius gone mad. While this was not his best role, he did a credible job making his character some across as a crazy lunatic. Much of the film is done in the same over-the-top pop style Vaughn used in Kick-Ass. However, Kingsman is slightly more polished and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Despite the extreme violence, the film is a decent addition to the British spy movie genre.