Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Coin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong
UK Release Date: 29th January 2015
A satirical action romp directed and written by Matthew Vaughn, adapted from Mark Millar’s comic with assistance from Jane Goldman – this statement applies to both Kingsman: The Secret Service and 2010’s Kick-Ass, and comparisons between the two are almost unavoidable. Where Kick-Ass is a comedic swipe at the superhero genre, Kingsman takes aim at the world of the secret agent, harking back to the classic 007 days of dapper suits, corrupt schemes and evil sidekicks.
The premise is a simple take on any adolescent Bond fan’s dream: a streetwise lad from the East End (Taron Egerton), nicknamed Eggsy, is taken under the wing of super-spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth), codenamed Galahad, and entered into the fiercely competitive academy of Kingsman, an independent intelligence service operating outside of any government influence. Whilst Eggsy trains and competes with other young hopefuls, Harry investigates Richmond Valentine, a billionaire businessman linked to a series of mysterious, high-profile disappearances.
The action is crucial in any screen adaptations of Mark Millar’s work, and in this regard, Kingsman certainly doesn’t disappoint; best described as a combination of The Raid’s kung-fu speed and Kill Bill’s exaggerated, bloody brutality, but performed by a pun spewing Mr Darcy. Fighting sequences are frantically fast-paced, with most characters taking on at least two opponents at once, and the outlandish comic book style comes complete with plenty of over the top gore. These scenes are viscerally energetic, totally engaging and the definite highlights of Kingsman (despite some ropey CGI in larger set-pieces), with the rest of the film suffering from unremarkable, style-over-substance direction.
Unfortunately, Kingman’s comedic side is not quite as well-executed as its polished action scenes. The satirical take on spy movie staples is entertaining throughout, and there are many funny moments in a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, a number of gags miss the mark in a tonal sense, and the crudeness of the humour surrounding Eggsy seems out of place (where most jokes feel like they would be better suited in an Inbetweeners episode). This isn’t helped by the generic “street” dialogue assigned to him and his London cohorts, which feels forced and unnatural in parts. Additionally, Kingsman’s 129 minute run-time is slightly too long for the tight and fun film that it sets out to be, and the final act is particularly overstretched.
Colin Firth fills the role of the gentlemanly quasi-Bond with ease, as does Michael Caine as Arthur, the Kingsman spymaster, and Mark Strong as fellow agent, Merlin (though his Scottish accent leaves a little to be desired). Samuel L. Jackson is a solid counterpoint to the extreme Britishness displayed from the main cast, playing the lisp-y, baseball-capped villain from across the pond. Newcomer Taron Egerton holds his own amongst these veterans in the role of Eggsy, and is joined by the relatively unknown Sophie Cookson as Roxy, though unfortunately her character is under-utilised and underdeveloped as Kingsman progresses.
While Kingsman is not a spectacular piece of cinema, it’s definitely a great “popcorn” film and immeasurably funnier than Mortdecai if you’re looking for “British” comedy (despite some over-reliance on lewd humour at points). Self-aware and satirical, the film presents an ode to classic spy tales with a colourful flair, including a Pistorius-influenced femme-fatale with blades for legs, and climatic fight sequences soundtracked by KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up”. Kingsman invokes the same feeling when having watched it as when Firth and Jackson’s characters tuck into a McDonalds Happy Meal over ornate silverware: imperfect and shameless, but unarguably very enjoyable.
* * *
3 / 5 stars