UK Release Date: 29th January 2015
Runtime: 129 minutes
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Samantha Womack, Geoff Bell, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill
Synopsis: A teen tearaway finds himself thrown into a world of gentlemen spies and an evil environmentalist plot.
In 2010, Matthew Vaughn gave the superhero movie an enormous kick up the rear end with Kick-Ass. The film was great fun, with just enough in the way of prickly edges to make it the antidote to conventionality that the genre desperately needed. After a detour to make X-Men: Days of Future Past, Vaughn is shaking things up again with Kingsman: The Secret Service – his take on the gentleman spy movie.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a teenage tearaway, whose mother (Samantha Womack) is in the clutches of an abusive stepdad (Geoff Bell). His life changes when he meets gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and is offered a chance to work for Arthur (Michael Caine) as part of the Kingsman organisation. Eggsy and his new colleagues must fight a genocidal plot from mobile phone entrepreneur Valentine (Samuel L Jackson).
Kingsman: The Secret Service is, in true British tradition, a game of two halves. To begin with, at least, the film invokes the gleefully dark spirit of Kick-Ass, as a comically violent, fast-paced jaunt through spy movie conventions. Colin Firth is clearly having the time of his life as he sheds his nice guy image by engaging in some true badassery. Taron Egerton, too, is a lot of fun, bringing genuine comedy to a role that could easily have been mere stereotype.
| "Manners maketh man. Do you know what that means? Then let me teach you a lesson."
However, there is a turning point midway through Kingsman: The Secret Service. In a much-discussed sequence, Firth’s character goes medieval on the congregation of a church as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit ‘Free Bird’ plays bombastically in the background. This scene is an enormously uncomfortable montage that urges the audience to get on board with the mass murder of innocent people as a comic device – something that will become important later.
Vaughn’s exuberant direction is the perfect frame for the horribly laddish, lowest common denominator feel of Kingsman’s last hour. The film noticeably shifts from being a good-natured spy spoof and instead starts to take an uncomfortable degree of pleasure in the death of innocents and the objectification of women. It’s like Austin Powers meets Dapper Laughs.
It all comes to a head in the final scene of mass destruction, which sets the horrible execution of a criminal plot to the upbeat disco stylings of KC & The Sunshine Band. This encourages a level of delight in cinematic violence that passes beyond edgy and into downright unpleasant. This is compounded by a hideously misogynistic take on the infamously innuendo-filled final lines of the early, campy James Bond films. Because nothing is funnier than anal sex.
| "The suit is the modern gentleman’s armour."
It’s a shame that Kingsman has such a problem with managing the excesses of Mark Millar’s comic because there’s a lot to be said for the early stages of the film. There are bright moments littered throughout the film, including a very welcome cameo by Luke Skywalker himself – Mark Hamill – but these are few and far between.
Kingsman is a film preoccupied with razor-sharp writing and having as much edge as possible. Unfortunately, this many edges result in a gaping wound where taste should be.
Pop or Poop?
There is definitely the seed of an interesting film at the heart of Kingsman: The Secret Service, but it is aimed at the most loyal adherents of the ‘male gaze’ and loses a lot of its fun as a result.
It can’t be faulted for its nerve and willingness to push boundaries, but it could’ve done with someone who knew when to stop.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.