Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
As a sequel is due out in September, I thought I’d revisit Kingsman: The Secret Service. Contrary to the movies titles and the implied homage seen in the various trailers, the film is not as clichéd as the genre it's set in. Nor does it draw too heavily from its graphic novel source material. As with Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn has managed to smooth over the rough edges of this films antecedents and create a rather unique, stylised and extremely entertaining hybrid. It is a somewhat niche market undertaking and won't appeal to all audiences but if you like all out action, knowing satire and a liberal dose of gallows humour then this movie is most likely for you.
Kingsman is an independent international agency specialising in the elimination of global terrorist threats; something they like to do with as much panache and class as possible. After the death of one of their operatives, Kingsman agent Harry Heart (Colin Firth) decides to replace him with a rather disreputable, unemployed youth called Eggsy (Egerton), whose father was in fact a fellow Kingsman. Thus, follows a fish out of water tale, as Eggsy has to pass the rigours of the Kingsman training program, while the agency has to counter the machinations of multi-billionaire entrepreneur Richmond Valentine (Jackson) and his obligatory plan for world domination.
Now this is all very contrived and certainly there's a lot of plot themes that we've seen before but the movie has an incredible sense of style and some of the most dynamic and fluid action scenes of recent years. Let me stress that this is really over the top gratuitous stuff, yet it works perfectly within its own internal logic. Colin Firth is a pleasure to watch playing against type and adapting to the material effortlessly. The set piece in which single handedly slays an entire church congregation that has become psychotic, is very impressive. Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Samuel L. Jackson also greatly elevate the proceedings. I thought that Taron Egerton as Eggsy would be the movie weakest link but he surprisingly makes the role his own.
Sadly, the movie does have a flaw running through it and it's based around the institutionalised sexism that has always been prevalent in this genre. Consider any Connery Bond movie and you'll get the idea. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman strive to satirise this theme but it ends out having the reverse effect and somewhat derails the final act. The gag at the end of the film in which Princess Tilde gives Eggsy his “reward” is somewhat tasteless. It's a shame because I'm pretty sure that was not the intention but tonally this doesn't work. Yet this isn't an enough of a defect to spoil the entire movie, which in other respects has quite a moral undertone.
Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprise hit for Twentieth Century Fox back in 2015. The film had a production cost of $81 million but saw a total box office gross of $414,351,546, which is a handsome return by Hollywood standards. Therefore a sequel was inevitable and so we have Kingsman: The Golden Circle hitting the UK cinemas on 29th September. The budget has now increased to $140 million but the writing and directing talent remains the same. Hopefully, audiences will be given a similarly stylised and satirical take on the international spy genre, that will prove as entertaining as the first. I’m happy to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, because after all “manners maketh man”.