Starring: Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton
Genre: Action/ Comedy
Despite promising grades at school Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Egerton) lives unemployed in a south London council estate living a life of petty crime which will ultimately lead to a life behind bars. However because of his dad’s secret past, watching over Eggsy is Harry Hart (Firth), who is a highly trained spy for a top secret agency known as Kingsman and persuades Eggsy to enlist in their highly dangerous training to become a fellow spy. However a global tech genius’ (Samuel L. Jackson) plans lead to a global threat that will test all of their training.
In a world of flat and generic 12A rated blockbusters, thank god for Mathew Vaughan! Just like with Kick-Ass, he has brought the same level of swagger and a downright sense of balls-out fun with Kingsman. I know we may be only into February, but with its combination of humour and slick action this is surely set to be one of the most downright entertaining cinematic experiences of the year.
The initial concept of a top secret organisation that essentially saves the world in total secret and a pantomime villain intent on global destruction is of course nothing new, but Vaughn in yet another screen adaptation of a Mark Millar graphic novel manages to bring a level of freshness and breathe new life into to it. The very English setting does admittedly mean there are plenty of extremely stereotypical depictions of the English classes that perhaps feel a little out of date, but thankfully the superb array of performances, self aware humour and the breakneck pace mean that is one of the very few quibbles that can be had with Kingsman.
While it seems that the big studios seem scared to allow films to be anything but tame 12A rated (at least until an ‘extended’ cut on the DVD release) it is a total godsend that Vaughn was giving creative license with both the script and the action. It not only gives a rougher edge to the film where violence looks like it genuinely hurts compared to the safe and polished blockbusters we tend to get, but it just makes Kingsman so much more fun. The film’s plethora of action sequences are outrageously over the top and often quite violent, many done in extended single takes, but yet because everything is so much fun they never feel like style over substance, but yet there is also genuine drama and tension to boot.
The narrative tropes of the journey of the film’s main protagonist and the overall plot of a maniacal bad guy are, like I said nothing new and in Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s script there is plenty of self awareness of and mockery of the very genre the film is, in particular Bond films. Getting away with that is very difficult to do, as it risks deterring genuine emotional investment in the film’s characters and undermining the film’s more serious and tense moments but yet the script manages this balance perfectly, even if a few plot holes emerge as the film reaches its climax.
The cast too are on top form, with Colin Firth as Galahad having great fun and certainly unleashing extreme violence when the film requires it, but yet unbelievably he certainly looks the part. Excellent support is also provided by Vaughn regular Mark Strong who adopts a Celtic tongue for the tech savvy Merlin that seems to get increasingly Scottish as the film goes along, but because it is Mark Strong it just works! Meanwhile Samuel L. Jackson’s villain Valentine is ridiculous and hammed up by Jackson complete with lisp, and in any other film would perhaps be too much, but yet Jackson does bring the necessary genuine menace to the character.
However the star of the film is Taron Egerton; his character journey may well be very predictable and the character of Eggsy extremely stereotypical, but Egerton manages to make Eggsy more than just a cliché and an extremely likeable protagonist worth routing for. He also certainly looks the part as a super spy and cuts the right balance of action chops and swagger in the film’s action packed and thrilling finale. Kingsman is of course a genre film and at its centre is nothing new from a narrative point of view, but it is one genre film with a serious injection of swagger, the perfect balance of humour and often brutal action and most importantly, is outrageously good fun from start to finish.
Vaughn once again takes a tried and tested genre and injects new life into it; Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageously entertaining and gloriously violent romp that will surely be one of 2015’s most enjoyable cinematic experiences.