KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
By Gary Murray
Starring Taron Ederton, Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson
Written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Running time 129 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
We live in a different cinematic world. Lately, movie patrons have been getting storybook villains who are tragically misunderstood, former evil creatures who are just victims of circumstance and selfish superheroes. In the 21st century, all the classic story elements seem to be turned onto obtuse angles just to do something different. Added to this list of re-imaging classic structure is Kingsman: The Secret Service.
This is an origins story based on the comic book The Secret Service. We start about twenty years ago and a mission gone awry. A young man is killed.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) also known as Galahad talks to the widow and gives her young son a medallion with a phone number on the back. He tells the kid that if he is ever in a jam he should dial the number.
We fast forward to today and the kid is now Eggsy (Taron Ederton). He is an adolescent going toward the bad side of life, causing trouble and committing petty crimes. He steals a car and, in a great action sequence, drives backwards on city streets.
Eventually, Eggsy gets caught and calls the number. Galahad gets Eggsy out of jail and they go to a pub. We see Galahad in a scene out of The Enforcer, where one man takes on an army of thugs. It is a brilliant bit of hand-to-hand fighting.
Eggsy is impressed and wants to know more. He is invited to the most challenging job interview of all time, a request to audition for the Kingman, modern knights of the Arthurian legend. They all have names from the story—from Arthur to Merlin.
The bulk of the film concerns two elements. One is the training of all the candidates to become the new knight. We see how deadly serious this training can become with agent dying during training. The other part is the villain.
Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is a lisping computer genius who believes that man is a virus on the planet. He believes to save the planet; most of man must be eliminated.
He has a henchwoman who has stiletto heels that are actual stilettos. She is a deadly assassin who shows a certain glee in her foot work. He has an evil plan that has to do with free cell phone cards.
The third act is where the film falls apart. Without giving too much away, there is a giant melee where the villain finally gets to test his evil plans. The film wants to be over the top but it goes into a massive slaughter. What was supposed to be thrilling turned out to be disturbing. It is the beginning of the fall of Kingman.
Eggsy has to save the world and in doing so must destroy hundreds of low-level henchmen. It becomes a cross between a Hong Kong action flick and a massacre along the lines of a Rambo flick. It is just too over the top and way too violent.
Kingsman looks perfect with a production that rivals the best of Far East Cinema. The film pops and jerks from action sequence to action sequence, without missing a beat. Director Matthew Vaughn has studied just about every action film and melded them into his work. The film also makes many references to Bond, mostly to poke the cinematic beast of action.
And there lies the problem. Where Bond has class, Kingsman has crudeness. It is not suave and debonair but tacky and unrefined. Time and time again if felt as if the makers were just trying too hard to make something both different and cooler that the long-running series. In the end, it just doesn’t measure up to 007.
Kingsman is to the spy film like Kick Ass is to the superhero flick. It has all the elements one expects but the final finished film is flawed. It is a decent start to a franchise and the next installment should be a stronger outing.