Directed by: Matthew Vaughn.
Written by: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn based on the comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.
Starring: Colin Firth (Harry Hart / Galahad), Taron Egerton (Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin), Samuel L. Jackson (Valentine), Mark Strong (Merlin), Sofia Boutella (Gazelle), Michael Caine (Arthur), Sophie Cookson (Roxy), Samantha Womack (Michelle Unwin), Mark Hamill (Professor Arnold), Geoff Bell (Dean), Edward Holcroft (Charlie), Nicholas Banks (Digby), Jack Cutmore-Scott (Rufus), Fiona Hampton (Amelia), Bjørn Floberg (Scandinavian Prime Minister), Hanna Alström (Princess Tilde).
The James Bond movies have left a big mark of cinema history – almost as soon as they became popular, rival studios came out with knock offs and parodies of the series – and that hasn’t really let up in the 50 years that the Bond films have been going on. The recent Bond films starring Daniel Craig have been among the best the series has ever had – and also among the most serious. So perhaps a film like Kingsman: The Secret Service is needed at this time. It is yet another in a long line of knock offs of the Bond series – but while the recent Bond films are serious, this one is more a throwback to the goofy days of Roger Moore's Bond –with outrageous gadgets, weird villains and outlandish plots. The result, while nowhere near original, is a hell of a lot of fun – at least for the most part.
The film opens in 1997 somewhere in the Middle East – where a young agent throws himself on a bomb, saving the life of Galahad (Colin Firth) – a veteran agent of the Kingsman, a super-secret spy organization. Galahad feels bad about the younger agent's death, and tries to make it up to his widow, and young son Eggsy. It isn’t until 2014 that he really gets that chance however – when another Kingsman agent dies, and Galahad selects Eggsy (Taron Egerton) to be his replacement. But every other Kingsman agent has selected a candidate as well – so Eggsy, who is rough around the edges, doesn’t come from a great family, and is immature, will have to beat them all out if he wants the job. Meanwhile, a tech billionaire with a horrible lisp named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), and his assistant with blades for feet, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) have some sort of horrible plan up their sleeve – that involves kidnapping all the famous and brilliant people around the world – and it’s up to the Kingsman to stop it.
The film is directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) who has never been a subtle director – but knows how to direct an action sequence with flair. When you're making a movie like Kingsman, over-the-top is what is called for, and over-the-top is exactly what Vaughn delivers. The action sequences are top notch – exciting, violent, funny, well shot and edited. There is a fight sequence set at a church that will likely be in the running for best action sequence of the year that is brilliant fun.
Firth is not the first name you would associate with an action film – in fact, he may just be the last actor you would think of, and the film uses that to its advantage. Outwardly, Galahad (his code name, like every other Kingsman comes from the Arthur legend) is the typical, refined, snooty Colin Firth milquetoast – which is what makes it so surprising (and funny) to see him in full kick ass mode – something Firth pulls off pretty much seamlessly (he is, after all, at the center of that church sequence). Other veteran British actors – like Michael Caine as the head of the Kingsman and Mark Strong as the trainer of the new recruits – are on hand to class up the movie a little bit. Jackson seems to be having great fun trying to sound badass with a lisp – but it’s a one joke performance that wears itself out fairly quickly. Newcomer Egerton is pretty good in the role – he especially settles into it as it moves along, and it requires more subtlety from his performance, which he does well.
Unfortunately, the movie does kind of wear out its welcome after a while. The film clocks in at nearly 130 minutes, and the last act is a mess of action sequences, while well handled, all feel anti-climactic after the church battle and eventually I just felt like I was being beaten over the head with it. One thing missing from the movie almost entirely – surprising for a James Bond clone – is sex. We assume that Eggsy and another recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson) may well be love interests – but the movie never develops that way. This makes it a little jarring at the end when a Swedish princess offers herself up at the end of the film in a scene that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Those gripes aside, Kingsman is overall a fun time at the movies – lots of action, lots of rude fun, and well made to boot. The film moves so quickly that you don’t have time to consider how ridiculous it gets (but also, it doesn’t have time to examine some of the interesting stuff it touches on either). Kingsman is far from a great movie – but it's a lot of fun, and really, what else do you want from a late February release.