Kingsman: The Secret Service - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IF Matthew Vaughn shook up the superhero genre with his hyper-violent, ultra-subversive but criminally fun Kick-Ass, then he’s repeated the trick with Kingsman: The Secret Service, his take on the spy genre.
Based once again on the comic books of the same name by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and featuring a script co-written by Jane Goldman (his regular collaborator), the film exists to put the fun back into the spy genre but also to deliver some hard-edged thrills.
Hence, like Kick-Ass before it, Kingsman has some surprises up its sleeve and takes a self-consciously perverse delight in shaking up expectation. As a result, it is quite often an absolute riot.
The story focuses on a super-secret spy organization, known as the Kingsmen, and one of its chief operators, Harry Hart (aka Galahad, played by Colin Firth), as he seeks to recruit an unrefined but promising street kid (Taron Egerton’s Eggsy) and thwart a new global threat from a twisted tech genius (Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine).
For Eggsy, recruitment is far from easy as he finds himself pitted against a number of other, more suitable candidates in a gruelling training programme overseen by a mentor named Merlin (Mark Strong), while Harry himself must pit his wits against a particularly clever and brutal adversary and his super-lethal second-in-command Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).
Vaughn’s film owes plenty of its inspiration to the classic spy movies of the ’60s and ’70s (from early, Sean Connery-era 007 to The Man From UNCLE and beyond) but it also has fun toying with perception.
Hence, there are gleeful pot-shots at some old genre traits (such as elaborate deaths and henchmen with oddball weaponry) combined with a sharp eye for modern filmmaking trends. The violence is extreme in places (especially during a stunningly brutal church confrontation involving Firth’s character) but totally in keeping with the type of thing Vaughn did so well in the original Kick-Ass.
Only occasionally does the film feel excessive but that has more to do with its attitude towards the ladies, with one gag involving a Scandinavian princess leaving something of a misogynistic after-taste. Jackson’s lisp-laden villain may also divide opinion (given his lisp) but it’s refreshing to find the actor in such a self-deprecating role and he proves to be a suitably worthy nemesis for the good guys.
Firth, as usual, is excellent as Harry and it’s great to see him tackling another genre with such aplomb, while Egerton is equally on top form as Eggsy, carrying the film’s biggest story arc with effortless ease and marking himself out as a name to watch for the future.
Notable, too, are the ever-dependable Mark Strong (even with a suspect Scottish accent), a surprisingly nimble and utterly kick-ass Sofia Boutella (last seen in the derisory Streetdance 2), a typically great Michael Caine, a barely recognisable Mark (Luke Skywalker) Hamill and an endearing Sophie Cookson, who positions herself as another name to watch as Eggsy’s training rival.
Hence, while certainly not recommended for the easily offended, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an otherwise rollicking good spy yarn that embraces the old and the new, while offering smart genre subversion, slick action and intelligent story progression to totally winning effect. You should go and have a blast.
Running time: 129mins
UK Release Date: January 29, 2015