by: Jay Carlson
With Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn has arguably delivered his most fun film yet. His take on the British spy film genre is loud, audacious and fun in all the ways that the newest Bond films are not.
The plot of the film revolves on the Kingsmen, a secret society of dapper British gentlemen spies and their search for a replacement after one of their own dies in the line of duty. The search is complicated for the Kingsmen when a rich megalomaniac prepares to execute his master plan to save the world by destroying humanity.
Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, the son of a fallen Kingsman who sacrificed himself to save the lives of his team, Harry Hart aka Galahad (Colin Firth) and Merlin (Mark Strong) seventeen years earlier. The years following his untimely death have not been kind for his widow and son that are left behind. Eggsy shows promise but trouble always seems to find its way to him.
A serendipitous twist of fate (and a breathtaking police chase) brings Eggsy together with Harry at the time that each remaining Kingsman must nominate a prospective replacement for their fallen brother’s spot in the organization. Harry nominates Eggsy, who is far from normal Kingsman material. Even though Eggsy is rough around the edges and unrefined, he quickly sets himself apart from the pack of other recruits.
Early on, it’s very evident that Matthew Vaughn has clearly discovered a star in the making in the handsome, charming and charismatic Egerton. He effortlessly stands toe to toe with Firth and easily carries much of the film on his shoulders. I’m excited to see Egerton ascend to his rightful place in the future.
Speak of Colin Firth…I’ve never been a Colin Firth fan, frankly. Off the top of my head I only recall enjoying him in Love Actually and A Single Man, but he was really terrific as the debonair, yet badass, spy in Kingsman. His scene in the church is one of my favorite WTF moments in recent film history. (I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll never look at him quite the same after that one.)
Also noteworthy was Vaughn regular, Mark Strong as Kingsman member, Merlin. Strong has been a tremendous character actor over the years, moving easily from evil, like Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, to bad, like mobster Frank D’Amico in Kick-Ass, to memorable turns in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and John Carter.
Like any good British secret agent film there is the villain with a plan to destroy/take over the world. Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine is precisely one of those villains and he rises to the occasion as a megalomaniac who can’t stand the sight of blood. Like all good spy movies, the villain has to have a unique henchman, right? Don’t worry, Valentine has a henchwoman named Gazzelle who has prosthetic blades below the knees that are actual blades (and boy she knows how to use them).
Kingsman, makes it abundantly clear what Kick-Ass 2 was sorely missing, the kinetic and playful direction of Matthew Vaughn. One of Vaughn’s greatest gifts, that not many seem to mention, is a Tarantino-like gift of mixing just the right song with each action scene. His trajectory as a director over the years has been spotless. Between Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class to Stardust and Kick-Ass he’s yet to make a film that has missed the mark. They haven’t all been perfect films, but they’ve all been entertaining as hell. Kingsman continues that streak, nicely.
Over the years Bond films had become hokey, with films that took themselves too seriously while being absolutely ludicrous. Vaughn has struck a nice medium with Kingsman, putting together a British secret agent film that is never afraid to make you laugh and have fun while providing a liberal dose of ultra violence. It’s a spy film that never takes itself too seriously.
I’ve been anxiously waiting for a film to break the cycle of January garbage, Kingsman is that film. Get out there and check it out.