With Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) again proves that he is one of the best directors of the last decade. Taking the graphic novel, The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and turning it into one hell of a “balls-to-the-walls” action flick that, from start to finish, is just awesome.
The basic plot is that 17 years ago, Kingsman Secret Agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) was unable to prevent the death of one of his fellow agents. Feeling guilty, Hart gives a bravery medal to the man’s widow and young son, saying that if they ever need help they should call the phone number on the back. Cut to present day: Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a jobless 20-something, gets arrested for taking a joy ride in someone else’s car. Eggsy calls the number. Harry gets Eggsy out of jail and introduces him to the world of the secret agency that he and Eggsy’s late father work for: The Kingsmen. Harry nominates Eggsy as a candidate to join the current class of young recruits. He is enrolled in the training program designed to weed out the unsuitable until only one candidate remains. Overseen by Merlin (Mark Strong), a senior Kingsman, whose difficult training’s goal is to push all of the candidates beyond their limits to see what they’re really made of.
As Eggsy begins his new life, training to be a Kingsman, we learn that there is a major threat to the world. Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is a billionaire technology tycoon who wants to, quite literally, tear the world down and build a better one. After giving away free SIM cards to nearly everyone on the planet, he sends out a broadcast signal to phones containing his SIM card, which causes humans to become uncontrollably violent, thus killing each other. This will, in theory, leave only the best and most desirable to inherit the new world. Now, only the Kingsmen can stop him before it is too late. This leads us, as viewers, on one hell of a ride.
The movie comes with Vaughn’s signature action and humor. He has mastered something very few directors have done: giving us action with lots of violence, but making it laugh-out-loud funny. It’s really just a matter of good taste, knowing when to cut away and what music you hear. With all his films, he has managed to create worlds where the over-the-top action is so over-the-top that it comes full circle. Going from total BS to that, was just awesome! And, Kingsman is no exception.
The movie has some visual effects issues here and there. Nothing that pulls you out of the movie at all, but some of the close-ups during fight scenes are obviously not the actors. The digital faces of the actors over the stunt performers faces are a little rough, but it’s so quick it hardly matters. The sets, the digital backgrounds, costumes, and special effects on the aerial stunts are all stunning. Much time and talent was put into making this movie stand out and not just fall into the barrel of other crappy action flicks.
Vaughn knows how to use popular music to fit a scene. From the opening use of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing,’ you know you’re in for a good time. A personal favorite song choice was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ during one of the most brutal fight scenes ever filmed. It’s a lengthy battle where you see people getting killed almost every way possible, and just when you think the brutality and humor can’t get any more crazy, it does. Adding that much more awesome to an already awesome-packed movie.
Best Actor Oscar winner, Colin Firth, gives us his first action movie. Hearing him speak at Comic-con last year, he was very excited to be in the movie, and has always wanted to play a James Bond-type character. Well, here he is given that chance, and it’s done marvelously. In another universe, he is James Bond. He’s strong, cool, and confident. Firth makes each scene his. Kicking ass with a classy savoir-faire, and looking impeccable the whole time.
Speaking of James Bond, the whole movie is based around Bond stereotypes and themes. This film is really a love letter to Bond films of yesteryear. They even go so far in the movie as to call them out in dialogue. It was meta, and lets you know that the filmmakers knew what they were doing the whole time. The movie has many an homage to the Bond franchise. From diabolical villains, evil henchman, mountainside-hidden bases, fast cars, beautiful woman, and enough gadgets to shake a stick at, it’s all in here. In another movie it would have been just ridiculous, but here it’s given the proper respect one would want from a fan of the genre, and it shows in each scene.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive as Firth. Not surprisingly, Mark Strong and Michael Caine give great performances. They are both superb actors that have longevity, and show just how great they can be. Relative newcomer, Taron Egerton, as Eggsy, really carries the weight of most of the film. Watch this kid, because he’s about to become huge. I’m sure he’ll be in some sort of superhero action movie sooner or later. He’s good looking, athletic and a good actor. He makes you care about him and his troubles, but still stays charming and grounded throughout the movie. He’s a good character and was a great choice to play the lead role.
But really, who is the movie all about? That’s right!
Samuel L. “Mother F**king” Jackson!
Jackson nails it as the megalomaniac, Valentine. Every scene is a grand show of his talent, and how much he is enjoying this role. You can see it in his eyes. Every line is delivered just how you would expect every great James Bond villain to speak. Except for one thing: his lisp. An acting choice by Jackson, he said he wanted to give the character something not even money could fix. It works in the movie once you get past the giggles of him sounding like Elmer Fudd. Soon, you don’t even hear it anymore because, 1: his acting is good, and 2: he becomes so villainous that it doesn’t matter how he speaks.
Valentine has his right-hand hench-woman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who gives any James Bond henchman a run for their money with her amputated legs with the bottom halves being razor sharp “feet knifes.” It’s hard to explain but they are deadly, as is her character. She enjoys killing. In fact, she revels in it. Gazelle is always trying to get Valentine to enjoy it as much as she does. Her fight scenes in the movie are some of the best fight choreography seen in a while. The amount of detail to her fights is amazing, making the movie that much more action packed.
At the end of the day, this movie is just one, great, over-the-top, rated R, action flick. From start to finish you know what type of movie this is, and what the filmmakers are doing. They’re just trying to entertain us and blow up a lot of shit in the best way possible. By that standard, they succeed. Giving you a movie that could have stayed at a 10, but they crank it up to a 20! Great action, wonderfully funny performances by actors you love, and reverence to the Bond franchise gives way to this being one of the best movies so far in 2015. So, this weekend, instead of wasting your money on that BDSM flick, take your truelove to this for Valentine’s Day. It might not be as sexy, but it’s a much better time to be had.