Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, (based on the comic book “The Secret Service”) Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
Running Time: 129 mins
Release date: 29th January 2015
Take one part James Bond, a sprinkle of John Steed and a handful of other spy movies. Mix them in a pot with lashings of graphic and brutal violence and you have Kingsman: The Secret Service, a full-on, in-your-face action adventure that will surprise and delight in equal parts.
The Kingman are a secret society working out of a tailor’s shop in Saville Row. After one of their own is murdered, a replacement is needed. Harry Hart chooses street wise Eggsy to take up the training. Meanwhile, computer geek, Valentine, has a plan to destroy human civilization as we know it, and only the Kingsman can stop him,
With James Bond all mean and moody nowadays, there’s needs to find something to replace it as it’s a long time since the days of outrageous set pieces, megalomaniac villains and gadgets galore. Kingsman fits the bill perfectly, except this has an added bonus: violence. Vicious, bloody, graphic violence.
Director Matthew Vaughn has always gone straight for the jugular when it comes to his style of film making but never has action scenes been so visceral, so immersing. A sequence in a church in which everyone is trying to kill each other and at the heart is Harry Hart, is incredibly graphic, incredibly brutal and gruesome and yet, and I say this guiltily, incredible fun. We also get a villain’s assistant with prosthetic legs with hidden swords that literally can cut you in half.
The plot line is utterly bonkers but this isn’t a film that is out there to win awards or to be taken serious. This is nonsense. Everyone in it knows that and they play it with their tongues rammed deep in their cheeks. They are having as much fun as we are watching it.
Based on the graphic novel by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar, which Vaughn also directed, it dops its hat to all those action-packed spy films we know and love. The gadgets are as crazy as the plot line. The action fast and furious and the laughs, all very knowing, are big. Yet it never once sticks its fingers up at the films it so obviously is paying homage to, particularly the early days of 007.
The cast is all having a blast. Young Taron Egerton, last seen as Alicia Vikander’s brother in Testament Of Youth, makes for a very agreeable street smart Eggsy, thrown into a world he never knew existed and expected to save it at the same time. He handles the physical stuff convincingly and is certainly a face to watch.
The always reliable Mark Strong lets his hair down (what he has of it) as a Q style, chief trainer of the raw recruits. With a Scottish accent that doesn’t always work, he still is one the screen’s most watchable actors. Michael Caine moves up from Harry Palmer to M as Arthur, the leader of the Kingsman and while he doesn’t get involved in the action, he still is perfectly suited for being the governor.
The two star turns come from two movie leads in parts that we don’t expect. Samuel L. Jackson plays Valentine, a super villain with a comedy lisp and a hatred for violence that brings out plenty of comic possibilities. Jackson plays the whole thing with a knowing twinkle in his eye.
The biggest surprise comes in the form of Colin Firth as Harry. Firth is perfectly debonair for a gentleman spy but its the scenes in which he is expected to become physical that shock you. You watch as he goes ballistic on a rampage of violence with one thought in your head: he won an Oscar for The King’s Speech. Now he’s Arnie! Transformation of the decade.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of those films that has so much energy, it’s infectious. If I do have a quibble, it’s the blatant product placement (burger, anyone?) but that aside, it’s fast, frantic, funny and fantastic.