Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella
Boldly British, incredibly violent and with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a timely corrective to the increasingly dour James Bond franchise, serving to both lampoon it mercilessly and remind us why the old warhorse is so beloved.
After one of his fellow secret agents is killed, Harry “Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth) nominates Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), the son of a candidate who died saving Hart’s life, as a replacement. While the street-smart, rough and ready Eggsy tackles the training regime designed to transform him into a Kingsman, Harry investigates internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson adopting a Mike Tyson lisp), who appears to be behind a rash of inexplicable celebrity disappearances. As is often the case, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and both the impeccable gentleman spy and the tearaway youth must go above and beyond to beat the ticking clock.
Kingsman is just an absolute blast. Adapted from the comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, it’s an arch, violent, occasionally tasteless love letter to the over the top thrillers that had their heyday in the swinging ’60s – think Bond, The Avengers (Steed & Peel, not Stark & Rogers), The Man From U.N.C.L.E., even a touch of Harry Palmer, all slammed together in a manner which feels like exhilarating chaos, but is in fact a carefully orchestrated paean to a past era which, while perhaps politically naive, is certainly a good deal more fun than the current crop of espionage exploits, of which the tortured Jason Bourne is the poster boy.
That doesn’t mean it’s just an exercise is wistful nostalgia – Egerton’s turn as the cheerfully iconoclastic Eggsy makes sure of that. Vaughn, along with co-writer Jane Goldman, is interested in the weird alchemy when old school mixes with new cool, rather than imply edifying one over the other: Firth’s Harry Hart may be an unflappable man of mystery, but Eggsy is a parkour-running
South London car thief, and it’s the two bouncing off each other that makes the film such fun.
It’s very adult fun, though – gleefully ultra-violent and sexy to the point of smuttiness (there’s a lewd gag in the denouement that might sit badly with some, but is pretty much on par with some the Moore-era Bond indiscretions). It’s all very tongue in cheek, but if you’re not on board with seeing someone literally bisected by a double-amputee assassin, you’re not going to have a good time.
You really should be on board, though – Kingsman: The Secret Service is a great little bundle of action and laughs. It’s clearly designed to kick off a franchise but even if it doesn’t, the film stands alone as a note-perfect piece of pop art. Don’t miss it.
First published in X-Press Magazine #1460