Kingsman: The Secret Service is frantic violent fun, but maybe not for everyone
Okay, so it's been a while since I last wrote. My new work schedule has been a bit tricky to work around, but I really wanted to get something out regarding Kingsman: The Secret Service. It's one of those movies that just have oh so many things to talk about.
And not to spoil the end of my review, but it's a pretty good one to come back on.
It's like the R-rated spiritual successor to the most ridiculous and bombastic of the James Bond movies. It's a blatant response to the overly serious action movies that have been coming out and what the James Bond movies (for good or ill) have recently become. I very much enjoy movies like The Bourne Ultimatum or Skyfall, but there's something to be said for an action movie that was primarily made with fun in mind.
And Kingsman is that in spades.
But first, the story
The scene opens in the Middle East in 1997 on the tail end of a covert mission that doesn't end the way our heroes would have liked, with a brave man giving his life to save his comrades (all of who seem to be named for characters from the Camelot mythology).
Back at home (read “England” in this case), “Galahad” (Colin Firth) promises a favor to his fallen comrade's widow and her young son Eggsy (“Eggsy”?) in memory of her husband's bravery.
Fast forward several years and prominent climate scientist Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) has been kidnapped. A rescue attempt ends with the introduction of the movie's lisping main villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his #1 henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who is doing her best Chell-from-Portal impersonation in her deadliest stilettos.
Back to the now grown up Eggsy. Any bets that he now needs to cash in that nebulous “favor”? After a meeting in a pub with the mysterious Galahad ends in a rather spectacular bar fight, Eggsy is introduced—eventually—to a secret society of—I promise I'm not making this up—tailors.
A team of gentlemen who kick all kinds of patootie and look good doing it, in more ways than one.
Meanwhile, celebrities all over the world are being abducted for some reason. Because, why not?
I'll leave it there.
Dot dot dot
This is a self aware movie. There are references within the movie to other action movies and shows of the past, both new past and long past. And by references, I mean the characters actually reference James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer. (If your monogram is "JB" your ideal career appears to already be chose for you.) There are discussions regarding the common tropes of action movies such as the pointless monologues or “quippy” puns.
Just keep one thing in mind: This isn't that kind of movie.
Also, while I call this a spiritual successor to James Bond, it very much earns its R-rating. There's language (profuse), violence (vicious) and lots of other language and violence. There's also a touch of nudity at the … *ahem* … end though not much.
I definitely could do without the language. Most of it is very casual and doesn't really accomplish much beyond raising the rating. But I acknowledge that it's kind of what these movies do.
But the violence is quite spectacular. Energetic. Brutal. Vicious. And not as bloody as I was afraid it would be. Not bloodless, but it could definitely have been worse. And it's filmed very well, Fast pace and energetic. Excellent camera movement to keep you in the middle of the action.
And the #1 thing I have to say about it all is how fun it is.
Which is the most important thing in some movies, isn't it? The action and pacing in the Bourne movies are great and satisfying. But this one is definitely just designed to be fun.
The story telling is rather safe in many parts. You'll have flashes of Men in Black, Star Wars (helped by the fact that one of the earliest scenes has two big Star Wars names), The Last Starfighter, and many other 'new kid to the previously unknown peace-keeping force' movies. But there are also parts that set this one apart.
The villain always has a big, diabolical plan. There's always the mentor who gets the hero started on the journey. There's the hero who shines in the face of his early tests. But when was the last time you saw a movie willing to let the hero fail his final test? Or let the villain's plan actually come about? Or force you to realize at the end that the hero and the villain had actually swapped roles?
I'm not saying all or any of those happen. But this is a movie that definitely takes chances in its storytelling. And it's very refreshing.
It all makes me very excited to see what they have in mind for a sequel.
Kingsman: The Secret Service - Trailer
Two things I would point out, though.
I don't exactly care for one part where our hero is promised a very … *ahem* … private reward if he saves the world. (Even as private offers go, this one is a bit more shocking than most.) I thought it was unnecessary, but as a spiritual successor to James Bond, it does actually fit pretty well.
And there's one scene in a church that, while one of the fun and excitedly filmed sequences, until you know why it's happening, you'll feel quite uncomfortable. And you should. But it did make me squirm until I finally started to understand what was going on.
Give it a try if you're into fun, fast, frenetic violence.
But what did you think of the movie?
Personally I give this one an 8 / 10.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is rated R for lots of harsh language, brutal violence (again, not bloodless, but not as bloody as I was afraid it might be), and a touch of sexuality (especially the promise and payoff mentioned earlier, culminating in a little brief nudity which likely wouldn't have, on its own, gotten the R rating).
More by this Author
Why do we like scary movies? Many people have their own answers to this question. Here are three possibilities.
The Horatio Hornblower movie series is a wonderful adaptation of C.S. Forrester's novels. Here I make a character study to focus on how the film makers brought the character of Archie Kennedy to life.
A simple comparison of two versions of the same story. Everyone has a different idea and approach, but it's up to you to determine which is "better".