Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Notable Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Jack Davenport, Mark Hamill

“I'm a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. Hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon madam.” --Harry

Matthew Vaughn took Hollywood by storm with his double feature of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, even though he had already been a name staple previously when partnered with Guy Ritchie. However, the double dose of awesomeness that is the previously mentioned films made him an A-list director here in the US. For his latest feature though, Vaughn and company takes a decidedly old school concept and slather it in modern style. Kingsman: The Secret Service is wholly homage to the days of outrageous gentlemen spy films, but completely stands on its own as a massively charming and entertaining picture. It packs wit, punch, and tongue firmly in cheek to be one of the most amusing films of the year.

For Eggsy (Egerton), life has been rough. His dad has been dead most of his life and his mom runs a circle of bad life choices for her family. When a well-dressed and mysterious gentleman Harry (Firth) shows up to bail him out of jail one day, Eggsy embarks on a new chapter – as a Kingsman recruit trained to be the best of the best in spies. His skills will be tested when an outrageous villain Valentine (Jackson) decides the world needs to fall to its knees though.

The glasses, man. It's all in the glasses.
Perhaps the greatest compliment one can bestow onto Kingsman is that, like Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, it’s a film utterly self aware of its genre and style. It plays into tropes of the spectacle wrapped spy film and at the same time knows when to break the mold for a modern audience. There are multiple scenes where Firth and Jackson make straight up references in the dialogue to the big influence of James Bond in the film and this sort of acknowledgment of its roots makes for far more enjoyable experiences throughout. Kingsman knows what it is and simply plays the audiences’ expectations as such. Whether it’s the villain, the dastardly ‘new world order plot’ pulled straight from The Spy Who Loved Me, or the terrible one liners, Kingsman owns its history.

What’s even better is that everyone involved seems in on the entire concept. Jackson, even with a rather surface level villain, utterly eats his role whole, one can barely see The King’s Speech Colin Firth for all of the charm and badassness he throws on display here, and the secondary cast of Mark Strong and Michael Caine make for limitless possibilities in the film. Yet, it’s the sheer charm and swagger of Egerton as the young spy recruit that carries a lot for Kingsman. Never once did I feel a dreaded Baby Bond vibe from him that would reignite my nightmares about Agent Cody Banks, but instead he feels perfectly suited for the role and blends right into the rest of the cast effortlessly.

Vaughn does do himself a favor (and from a blessing from his studio, I’m sure) and Kingsman perfectly adheres to its ‘R’ rating. The violence in the film – which is key to its plot, believe it or not – is astounding in comparison to the rather cut and tailored feel of its characters: a balance that works splendidly. The film plays things edgy with its political undertones of satire and never before have you see Firth in a massively violent church riot (which is as awesome as it sounds) that leaves a body count well into the double digits, but the lack of a safety net modernizes the rather Bond-like plot to a new audience and one that will bite into it with satisfaction.

The church scene just might go down in history.
Kingsman is not perfect and often many of the training sequences seem a little drug out for the sake of giving us more spectacle, but the film is a rather brilliant slice of new meets old for fans of the smirking espionage genre. Vaughn knows how the film should play out to balance the elements of each and combined with top notch productions and a cast that’s willing and able to play up to the charm and edge needed, this film is the perfect kick off for a new franchise. It’s an immensely entertaining romp and one that come highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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