Posted February 26, 2015
By DONATELA VACCA
Awkwardly blurring the line between parody and reality, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” shines as a bizarre, but interesting, attempt to revamp the spy movie genre with an amazing cast but mediocre storyline.
An adaptation of the comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the movie follows the journey of street boy Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton) as he is saved from a life of crime and recruited into a secret agency of exceptional spies.
Old comrade and spy mate of Eggsy’s late father, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), introduces him into the secretive world of Kingsman in order to become the next young spy. Fueled by passion, eagerness and rage, Eggsy somehow makes it to the top two and ventures into a world of slow motion fighting, butt kicking, champagne drinking, incredible gadgets and fine Kingsman suits.
Mathew Vaughn’s newest installment seems to be steered by a ludicrous plot where a multimillionaire and tech savvy filmmaker named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) wants to put an end to global warming by exterminating half of the human race through a mind controlling SIM card.
As if his evil plan to dominate the world and its seemingly unaware leaders isn’t hard enough to believe already, Valentine’s annoying lisp and tacky clothing makes his malicious persona hard to believe and rather easy to mock instead.
Vaughn is known for critically acclaimed action movies like the “X-Men” saga, “Kick-Ass” and “The Fantastic Four.” Although not his best work, his directing surely does not disappoint. With more than three shocking turning points that are indeed unexpected, impressively choreographed fight scenes and tremendous special effects, Vaughn and the cast manage to keep the dull plot afloat.
A master of slow motion, Vaughn manages to create long action and fight sequences that somehow look as if no body double was ever required. Although some are particularly long and too good to be true, it is after all, a spy movie where agents are as good and fast as highly trained stuntmen.
A mix between “The Matrix,” “James Bond” and The Bourne franchise, “Kingsman” manages to respect the classic spy movie blueprint (cool gadgets, quick reflexes, guns, jets and pretty women) while eliminating the drama and adding comedy as well as a bit of romance.
Brought to life by a crew of British filmmakers, the film is indeed funny. Full of clichéd dark jokes and cold punch lines, the film manages to make the audience laugh out loud on several occasions. However, it is precisely this dry humor that might turn some people off. After all, it is indeed a British movie.
The humor and dialogue of certain scenes makes it unclear if the movie is a parody of great espionage classics or just an unconventional praise to the spy world. For instance, there is a scene where the leader of the agency asks Eggsy why he named his dog J.B. With no answer, he proceeds to enumerate spy classics like Jason Bourne and James Bond only to have Eggsy tauntingly answer: “Jack Bauer” (a slightly derailed version of what a spy is.)
Although the movie is R-rated, taking out some gruesome and violent fight scenes, there is honestly nothing that 21st century teens have not seen before. That is the reason why the movie should have truly been NC-17, encouraging a wider range of moviegoers.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” seems to explore a wide variety of themes, such as love, anger, revenge, redemption, good vs. evil, survival of the fittest and even death.
However, it is interesting that the main exploration of the movie is learning how to keep the balance between being a good agent and having class, something that Eggsy is taught to develop all throughout.
The idea of turning macho spies into classy and fancy men is what makes the movie quite unique. Kingsman is actually the name of the tailoring business that the spy agency owns, providing all spies with exceptionally elegant and bulletproof suits.
In other words, the movie seems to play with the spy genre creating a new species within secret agents: the posh and well-mannered spy that never looses his style. Coming from the British continent, it seems to be a pretty accurate and riveting innovation.
There are various scenes where while Eggsy and Hart viciously fight the villains, they keep repeating the movie’s all time quote: “Manners maketh man”
Even though an incomprehensible and unnecessarily vulgar scene precedes the last shot, the ending seems to be cyclical making reference to a scene in the beginning of the movie where Hart saves Eggsy from muggers using his super fast spy moves. Fast-forward and we see a well-mannered, polished and professional Eggsy who seems to have managed the spy world at last and proceeds to save his mother just like Hart saved him.
Although a mediocre script with unlikely saving-the-world missions and forgotten scenarios like whatever happened to Eggsy’s faithful puppy companion or his potential girlfriend, the action, the acting and the humor outdo all failures.
Parody, eternal cliché or a new hybrid genre? That is the question that will forever remain unanswered. Classified as an action, adventure, comedy and crime movie it is not clear whether its bizarreness caused a mix of genres, or this is just the consequence of being a modern-day interpretation.
One thing that is indeed clear is that if you are not a fan of dry British humor that occasionally mocks the American culture, do not make “Kingsman: The Secret Service” your first choice. Otherwise, go in. A peculiar but captivating interpretation of the spy world awaits.
- “Kingsman: The Secret Service”
- Director: Matthew Vaughn.
- Main cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill.
- Release date: Feb. 13, 2015.
- Country: United Kingdom.
- Distribution company: 20th Century Fox.
- Run time: 129 minutes.
- Genre: Action, adventure and comedy.
- R-rated: Vulgar language, violence, gore, adult themes and sex.
- Playing in all area theaters.
- Subtitles available only outside the U.S.
- Languages: English, Arabic & Swedish.
- Shot in: 35 mm.
- Personal Rating: 3½ stars out of 5.