If you want an over-the-top comic book movie done right, call Matthew Vaughn. The English writer/director has helmed two mega-successful comic-book movie adaptations: 2010’s gloriously violent Kick-Ass and 2011’s hip and fresh reboot X-Men: First Class. Clearly a student of Guy Ritchie (Vaughn produced Ritchie’s 2000 caper Snatch), Vaughn uses quick cuts of action, funky throwback music in the background, an attention to style and finesse and undeniable British cool. So who better to make silly spy movies cool again than Mr. Vaughn?
Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on the 2012 comic book series sharing The Secret Service name about a high-class society of British secret agents who believe “manners maketh man” when saving the world. One of those agents, Harry “Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth), sees something special in working-class scrub Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton). Unwin, the outcast amongst the other trainees from financially well-off families, learns about shooting to kill in sharp suits from the likes of fellow agents Merlin (Mark Strong) and headmaster Arthur (Michael Caine). The agency ends up springing into action when social media billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his blade-footed assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) plan to use SIM cards to wipe out most of the global population.
Egerton is an impressive young actor in this star-making performance and probably wouldn’t be out of place in a Guy Ritchie movie 20 years ago. He’s brash, charming and never seems out of place in his scenes with master thespians like Caine and Firth. While he might be a little too physically built for “scrappy, working-class youngster,” his confidence and attitude are worth warranting a few more big roles. Firth and Caine are playing the articulate Brits they’re known and loved for, with Firth especially enjoying action scenes and the hammy dialogue. Samuel L. Jackson is just Samuel L. Jackson with his hip dialogue, color-coordinated clothes and a lisp. Why? Because he’s Samuel L. Jackson. And no one will make him be otherwise.
Kingsman to spy movies is what 22 Jump Street was to action sequels: a clever wink and nod to influential films while sticking its tongue out at those same movies. Kingsman makes clever nods to James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer and even Get Smart. It’s not insulting, but it’s more like a friendly roast of the serious thrillers. Vaughn’s directorial stamp is all over Kingsman, with fast-paced action scenes with rotating cameras and acrobatics mixed with fists. Explicit language, violence, and scenes that will certainly push buttons (see the fight scene in a hate church…yes that happens) are on a proud display here. Sure, being able to predict these elements takes away the initial kick of the whole experience, but the fun is still present. Kingsman has no agenda but to show the audience a good time. Suit up.
Final Verdict: 3 out of 4 stars