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Friday, February 13, 2015

Movie Review: Kingsman - The Secret Service

Filled with highly-stylized action and great dialogue, Kingsman: The Secret Service goes out of its way to satisfy.

Review by Matt Cummings

We're in sort of a spy genre renaissance these days, populated with so many instant classics that it's not hard to find something for everyone. Whether it's the slow burn brilliance of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Most Dangerous Man, the frenetic action of the Mission: Impossible franchise, or the stylized darkness of recent James Bond films, the genre buffet is filled with delicious delights. Fortunately, Kingsman: The Secret Service not only deserves a space, but it will blow you head off if you don't.

The world of Brit Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) has been one of limitless possibilities but little success. After losing his father at an early age, Eggsy has grown into a precocious teen who blames stuffy aristocrats for his father's death. But the angry and defiant young man doesn't know the truth: that his father was a member of the Kingsman, a privately-funded spy operation with no government oversight that routinely ended global terror threats. One of their top agents Henry Hart (Colin Firth) witnessed the death of Eggsy's father and has kept a close eye on the brilliant boy's struggles throughout the years. When Eggsy lands himself in jail, Hart not only secures an immediate release but offers him a chance for step into his father's shoes as a Kingsman. As he trains and competes against a collection of better-bred candidates, Eggsy learns of a shadowy plot by the lispy billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) to reduce the human population so that global warming can be averted. Together with Hart, Eggsy must track down Valentine before his diabolical plans can be realized.

Kingsman is the kind of film that demands to be seen, not because of some sort of socially-relevant Oscar-worthy message, but because it's just a great time that both pokes fun at the spy genre but also sets new standards for action within it. To say Director Matthew Vaughn has gifted his film with a new level of cool is understating the matter, as it's filled with great 360 pan movements, hyper ramming techniques, and slick spy gadgets that should appeal to casual moviegoers in search of popcorn entertainment. The film - and Vaughn himself - make their point by banking on a familiar type of storytelling, one that we've seen from his Kick-Ass series, now made slick in Kingsman. Whereas the first centered around the ugly world of superhero vigilantism, Kingsman adds layers of rich color to the sometimes overused spy troupes of dastardly deeds, super-villainous leads, and odd henchmen. The result is a film that even breaks the fourth wall by both admitting its Bond legacy and making fun of it at the same time.

Firth is unquestionably a fantastic actor, as his Oscar win for The King's Speech in 2011 was not an accident. Here, he gratiates the screen with a trademark style that nearly made him a Bond years ago when Pierce Brosnan exited the franchise. Firth commands every scene he's in, not because of his bravado but in his ability to make every actor around him better. This helps establish Egerton in early scenes, whose rough-around-the-edges character is refined and sharpened by Hart's piercing and perfectionist style. Even SJF favorite Mark Strong is made better by Firth, who in turn shares his years of cinematic perfection with Egerton as a Kingsman trainer and eventual mission leader. But every great spy film needs a quality baddie, and Jackson's Jay-Z hip-hop imagining of Valentine is a round of clever jokes and brilliant reactions just waiting to be opened. Some viewers might take offense to his on-again/off-again lisp, but it's mixed with some of the best dialogue of the film. Whether it's ordering Big Macs at a lavish dinner or wincing at the sight of spilled blood, Jackson is welcomed comedic relief that seems to happen at just the right time.

But dig a little deeper into Writer Jane Goldman's script (who shares credit with Vaughn) and you'll see good commentary about the lives of the Kingsman that go beyond their classic and elegant suits. Surely they are people as well, dedicated to protecting the motherland at all costs but who also care about one another. Whereas Bond is more of the deadly loner assassin, there's a genuine sense of comradeship among the agents, making their eventual deaths all the more heavy. There's also a memorable team of supporting cast members like Mark Hamill, Michael Caine, and Stephnie Cookson as Eggsy's competition, who add more complex layers to the story. Some of the terrific violence here might offend the uninitiated in its brazenness, but it's all in good hokey fun. Believe me when I tell you tell that some of it is completely insane and intensely comical, yet it all seems to work even when a plot hole is uncovered and quickly dismissed. It's my hope this gets a franchise, as its world building and unique style is just what we need to round out the genre.

Replete with silly stylized action and hilariously over-the-top spy genre dialogue, Kingsman: The Secret Service will satisfy any moviegoers' need for popcorn entertainment. While it's a film best seen in the premium experience, you'll also enjoy the fun dialogue and one of the deepest and talented casts we've seen this year. Whether you're a fan of the spy genre or just love a good old fashion violent time, Kingsman goes out of its way to satisfy.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content and has a runtime of 129 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Marlene Detierro January 20, 2016 at 6:52 PM  

So much fun! We had to buy this one and will be enjoying it for years to come... instant classic! I can't do a spoiler alert. They know who they have to bring back though, Chris Tomlinson!!

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