FLEBB Reviews Kingsman: The Secret Service

Yeah watch it. Some jokes fall flat and Samuel L Jackson is wasted but its fun enough that it’s hard not to recommend. Firth makes his jokes work, the action set pieces are grinningly ridiculous and there’s hardly a dull moment. A good movie for an easygoing night in when you want to watch something lighthearted.

Kingsman is an attempt to fill the campy action void that modern gritty Bond has left. It does this unabashedly, the only difference being that we follow off brand Bond’s recruitment for the majority of the film. Mathew Vaughn clearly has a style since this is Kick Ass for the spy genre.

In fact I bet that was how it was sold to investors. Deadpool got a lot of press for being a large scale comic book movie with a 15 (R in America) but to my mind Kick Ass was the one to open that market 6 years earlier. It topped that weekends box office despite being a new low budget IP with a relatively unknown lead and it kicked off the move to more gleeful violence, nudity and foul language in mainstream films traditionally aimed at adolescents, loosening the 12A’s (or PG13’s) grip on the market.

Now I am a sucker for visceral gore, and I see little problem with nudity and language so long as its tonally warranted. Kick ass was about playing off the comedy of putting superhero scenarios in the context of the real world, so tonally the violence makes sense. The sexual threads are woven in since the character is a horny nerd in school, so the jokes and mentions regarding this don’t feel out of place. I mention this because the opposite is true of Kingsman.

Kingsman doesn’t actually feel like a parody despite some nods to the Bond series that refute that. Instead it feels commendably faithful to the corny old Bond aesthetic. It’s world is silly and fun, filled with entertaining gimmicky characters. It is lighthearted and feels perfectly at home as a family movie. Now thread into this is a surprisingly large (and mildly bloody) kill count and out of place forced sex jokes (most notably a European princess saying she will do anal with the protagonist “Eggsy” if he saves the world) and it jolts you out of what should feel like an innocently written world. Now I’m not sure how this came about. Mathew Vaughn, director of both Kingsman and Kick Ass, is credited as a screenwriter and it might be that what I had previously thought of as comedy written for the characters in Kick Ass is actually just Vaughn’s sense of humour. Or it may be the outside influence of someone going “Aren’t you the Kick Ass guy? Make it more Kick Ass-ey, that film sold well.” Either way it’s a stupid reason to arbitrarily add rude elements to a safe but decent script. I mean To exemplify how tonally inconsistent this film is, the scene directly after the anal one mentioned above features Eggsy lecturing people on how “manners maketh man”. Rudeness is only as entertaining as it is unforced. A film should not aim for a higher rating, it should only try and not stoop to a lower one.

Judging from what I’ve said so far, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I hated the film. I didn’t. I actually thought it was brilliantly fun, and there were several moments where i couldn’t stop from grinning. The campy violence might overstep into actual violence but its bloody well choreographed and funny. In fact a lot of the film is funny, the best of it coming from the expectation on Colin Firth’s character to act like a gentleman. Though while Colin Firth is a great choice he does somewhat restrain the shooting style of the action scenes. He was 55 when this was released and you can tell that made things difficult. They use a cheapo version of the slow then fast Zack Snyder trick, that looks less slick and more like its trying to cover for Firth’s lack of action hero credentials. Still, the choreography is good enough that it doesn’t distract too much and the film doesn’t skimp out on the action despite not looking especially expensive. I mean the token right hand henchmen has blades for legs. Genius.

flebb-kingsman-firth

The plot is bog standard and has a glaring error in it: the villain does not know about the Kingsman despite (spoiler) having people on the inside. The characters are also pretty much bog standard stereotypes apart from the conspicuous addition of Mark Hamill (in it due to his appearance in the comics from which this is loosely adapted) and Samuel L. Jackson. Both are wasted. Hamill is a generic scientist who knows too much and fuck knows whats going on with Jackson. He’s an MIT super genius who dresses in tracksuits, has a lisp and is afraid of blood. I think they were throwing darts when they came up with that one. I don’t know if they were worried about type casting Jackson or something but I mean vengeance and furious anger is his thing. Not using that thing just feels like a confusing waste.

Despite that, yeah go watch it. It’s got some glaring flaws but its fun enough that it’s hard not to recommend. Firth makes the jokes work, the action set pieces are grinningly ridiculous and there’s hardly a dull moment. A good movie for an easygoing night in when you want to watch something lighthearted.

Now looking into the future, a Kingsman 2 has been announced for a 2017 release date. I’m not big on sequels but this kind of campy spy movie is largely an excuse for action set pieces anyway. What worked best in the original aside from the inventive action was the fish out of water in high society stuff. Now entrenched in it, it might make sense for it to be about Eggsy and another agent having to infiltrate a London gang. That way Eggsy can take Firth’s place in spirit as the knowing teacher. The stakes could be to do with assassinating the Tory prime minister, coming from a working class background Eggsy could have misgivings about the prime minister, himself, and there be some conflict surrounding that. There could be drug trade introduced which allows for a fight scene on a hallucinogenic. Hell have a fight scene in the house of commons, and i’m sure if you pay Tony Blair a few quid he’ll make an appearance. It would even kind of make sense with who is at the reigns. I mean Mathew Vaughn is back on to direct and already has experience with London gangster movies like Lock Stock, Snatch and Layer Cake.

In reality that’s not what we’re getting. They’re setting Kingsman 2 in America, most likely to break the series into that market. We’ll have to wait till next year to see if it pays off.

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