Kingsman: The Secret Service, 2015.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, Michael Caine and Mark Hamill.
A veteran secret agent takes a young upstart under his wing.
The last time comic book writer Mark Millar and director Matthew Vaughn collaborated on an adaptation we got Kick-Ass, a madcap hyper-violent outrageously funny deconstruction of the superhero genre. It was lightning in a bottle, and thankfully that lightning hasn’t left as their next project, Kingsman: The Secret Service, is just as outlandish and entertaining. Imagine taking the over-the-top action sequences of Kick-Ass and mixing them with the narrative of a 60s reminiscent James Bond flick, cranked up to 50 on the absurdity scale. Sounds awesome on paper but the execution is even better.
Part of the reason why has to stem from Matthew Vaughn’s vision as a director, which after recent comments we now know is about dialing back the super serious tones often found in blockbusters of the modern era, in favor of taking a wickedly stupid plot and turning it into a hypnotic rollercoaster ride that is so fun you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen. Kingsman: The Secret Service is defiantly dumb, but oozes style in every aspect, from the framing of its action sequences to the comedy spliced in throughout. Surprisingly, as ridiculous as the story is, it can genuinely be touching at times.
Newcomer Taron Egerton plays delinquent Eggsy to utter perfection, portraying a young man looking to use the Secret Service as a means of getting his life on a different, more productive and proper path. From his tomfoolery stages to his training to the action sequences, he’s so easy to root for. Credit writer Jane Goldman also for laying out some wonderfully structured character development that flows together seamlessly.
All of the characters in Kingsman: The Secret Service are memorable with their own quirks though. There is Colin Firth in a mentor role who also has one of the most stylistic and slickest fight scenes in recent memory; an extended battle shot as if it were one take set to fucking Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Furthermore, as mentioned in the film as part of some brilliant meta commentary, in movies like this it’s the villains that have to match up to the heroes. And they certainly do here, with Samuel L. Jackson playing a lisping billionaire genius that is also completely off his rocker, associating himself with a henchwoman that has knives for feet. This movie is completely bonkers and it revels in it.
Another welcome surprise in the character department is the restrained and subdued way of giving Eggsy a sort of romantic subplot. It’s there but never becomes overbearing taking over the plot. As a matter of fact, she is surprisingly depicted as a capable woman with strength that can handle equally important duties during the final act. When you couple this with the fact that one of the major villains can cut you to pieces with her legs, it showcases a well-rounded cast of characters for the film.
Naturally though, it is the action sequences that make or break a film like Kingsman: The Secret Service, and as mentioned before they are clever and spectacular. Whether it’s watching Eggsy and the other potential recruits in training skydive out of a plane trying to solve the issue of one of them not having a parachute, or ridiculous gadgets like an umbrella that can shoot and shock people, or goons getting sliced open by a woman with knives for feet, this movie defines fun.
The film isn’t perfect though as the training stages can feel a bit long, and by extension the movie itself. It just feels that one or two of the exercises could have been cut to keep the progression of the plot at a slightly more rapid pace. Also, occasionally there is a weird motion blur during some of the action probably intended as a stylistic effect, although it doesn’t really work. However, it is nowhere near distracting enough to take away from how transfixing the action is. It’s just an odd quirk that I hope Matthew Vaughn ditches in his next film.
At a time when most of us are probably somewhat burnt out from watching numerous Oscar oriented dramas, period pieces, and generally serious movies, Kingsman: The Secret Service couldn’t come along at a better time to help us decompress. It walks a tightrope between complete stupidity and genuine emotion; I’ll say it right now, Spectre has competition for the winner of 2015’s best spy movie.
And once again, there is a lengthy fight scene that plays fucking Free Bird!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.
You can watch our interviews with Kingsman: The Secret Service director Matthew Vaughn and its creator Mark Millar using the player below: