Leaving out all of my fanboy stuff, meaning the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and The Matrix trilogy, I can probably count, on one hand, the number of times I have seen a movie more than once in the cinema. Just a few that come to memory are The Cell (2000), 300, Pacific Rim, and, most recently, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Why I saw the Matthew Vaughn helmed action-adventure comedy twice, and would probably see it again, isn’t difficult to understand: It is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a long time; a truly enjoyable cinematic experience. It will, no doubt, be seen on my Best of 2015 list come the end of this year.
Adapted by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar’s comic book The Secret Service, Kingsman is about a secret group of British gentleman spies who keep the world safe from terrorist organizations and crazed techie billionaires hell bent on unleashing chaos and carnage onto the world. But more about the lisping arch-villain Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) in a bit. First, the spies. Once they demonstrate their courage, intelligence, physical prowess, and ability to work as a team – they undergo a rigorous training/proving ground – they are given an Arthurian moniker, get some Bondesque gadgets, and join an elite team of sophisticated, well-tailored, badasses.
The main cinematic badass in Kingsman is Harry Hart (Colin Firth), also known as Galahad, who, after a tragic series of events, recruits Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of one of their own fallen agents. The only problem is that Eggsy is unlike any of the other recruits. He’s rough, tumble, and thuggish. The Londoner didn’t graduate from Eton or Cambridge. He doesn’t wear a suit or tie. And he definitely doesn’t have a “silver spoon up his arse.” And yet, he has everything the Kingsman needs. Hart knows this, and he is willing to go against the establishment – represented by Arthur (Michael Caine) – to prove it.
And now the bad guy: Valentine has made his fortune in gadgets, and he has used his fortune to tackle, what he considers the major issue of the day, specifically overpopulation. I won’t go into the details, but at the beginning of the film, he kidnaps Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill), a guy who champions Gaia theory – that the earth is a self-regulating organism – but then the professor has a mishap and things get bizarre. Celebrities like Iggy Azalea, who has a song on the soundtrack, go “missing” as do Scandinavian diplomats. And people are getting explosive implants put into their necks. Valentine is a heavy, but because he has an aversion to blood, he relies on an assassin, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), with blades for lower legs and feet (think Oscar Pistorius), to take care of business. I am rambling a bit because it’s all very convoluted and … you just have to see it for yourself.
There are many reasons for me to champion Kingman, but I’ll outline just a few of the main ones. First, Firth is phenomenal! He has a long (sometimes boring and predictable) history of playing upper class, emotions kept heavily in check gentlemen. I knew he could keep his upper lip incredibly stiff. I knew he could make a suit sing. But I had absolutely no idea he could bob, weave, stab, shoot, and kill like he can in this film. The absolute highlight of this film, and one of the reasons I was so excited to see it again, is his extended fight sequence in a church, battling racist, bigoted, sexist rednecks. The fight choreography had me staring in absolute rapture. I didn’t want to blink for fear I would miss anything. I could probably watch that sequence 100 times in a row and never get tired of it. It is probably one of the best choreographed fight sequences in cinematic history, and I’ve seen a lot of them. The sheer complexity of it boggles my mind. And Firth’s athleticism, grace, and timing … I have never seen Firth do anything like this, and I certainly hope this won’t be a one-off. He could be an amazing action star. Who knew??
Second, be sure that you keep your eyes on Egerton, because if he makes the right choices from here on out, he’s going to be a super huge star. This 20-something actor has everything going for him: He’s handsome, super charming, and such a talent. I would add him to every “Ones to Watch” list in existence. Same could be same for Boutella, who, among other things, has been a backup dancer for Madonna. Her fight sequences are also pretty mesmerizing.
Third, the end of the film is hilariously bizarre and not like anything you will have ever seen. It’s creative and colorful and truly something you have to see. It’s a spectacle for sure.
Fourth, the cast itself is solid. Mark Strong, if he’s in a film, I’m going to watch it. He plays Merlin, the Kingsman’s tech support, for lack of a better explanation. Also Caine. Come on. He’s a national treasure. I’m thrilled every day he’s on this Earth. And seeing Hamill speaking with a British dialect was pretty awesome, too. Vaughn knows how to play the fanboy card.
Kingman isn’t easy to pin down. It combines the cool factor of old school British spy films and TV series, think the James Bond films melded with the cheeky class of the 1960s TV series The Avengers. It has a hint of Tarantino’s Kill Bill here; more than a casual nod to Vaughn’s own Kick-Ass, and some of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which Vaughn produced. (God, remember when Ritchie was a thing? Sad.) I love all of the references found in Kingsman, so naturally I loved Kingsman. But I don’t want to make it sound as if it is derivative. Not in the slightest. It nods heavily but it also makes it clear that it is its own genius work. It is taking the old and established and forging something fresh, new, exciting, and fun. I found it to be very inspiring, creatively.
I just read that there is a deleted scene from the film that contains a young Michael Caine. I was already planning on buying the Blu-ray, now I’m more excited to get my hands on it. Please make there be more extras, particularly director’s commentary and a behind-the-scenes explanation of that church carnage sequence. I will be sure to take in every additional detail.
Kingsman was released around Valentine’s Day, which is a shame. It has all the awesomeness of a summer blockbuster. It deserved a better release date. If you miss it in the cinema, at the very least get it on DVD. It’s a super fun, violent flick that shouldn’t be missed.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.