“Kingsman: The Secret Service” Does the Spy Genre Justice

(Since movies are such a widely consumed art form – see a previous blog post on this subject – Urban Gateways staffers have decided to try a foray into movie reviews here on our blog. You’ll see more of this in the future. Enjoy!)

“Kingsman” sets the tone for the type of movie it will be fairly early, when one of its characters enacts a solo rescue mission, deftly and stylishly dispatches a crew of henchmen, and then is split in half by a villain with razors for legs. Yes, you read that correctly, RAZORS FOR LEGS. If this isn’t a sign you are in for a wild ride then I’m not sure what more of a tipoff you need.

The movie is based off the comic book The Secret Service (with which I was unfamiliar) and directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed such brilliantly violent films as “X-Men: First Class”. The story of “Kingsman” revolves around Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks British 20-something whose father, unbeknownst to him, was a Kingsman in training. During a mission gone wrong, Eggsy’s father sacrificed himself for his fellow Kingsman, Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, who blames himself and promises a favor to a young Eggsy. Having his father stripped from him sets Eggsy down a typical rebellious youth path, involving trouble with authority, petty crimes and such. Having found himself in a hot spot with local authorities, Eggsy calls on Harry to cash in his favor. Harry, still feeling guilty about Eggsy’s father’s death, takes a special interest in Eggsy and invites him to join the cast of new recruits for the Kingsman (who are an extremely well funded and organized group of super spies with no government affiliation, so as to remain uncorrupted by politics).

The majority of the rest of the film deals with the recruits training, learning teamwork, and other typical movie plot lines such as: Eggsy being looked down upon by his fellow trainees because he is not of the manor born, Eggsy forging a friendship with a female recruit, and Eggsy outshining most of the snobs during the training process (think Harry Potter with WAY more violence). The real pleasure that is stuck in the middle of these scenes is the plot hatched by and the character development of the movie’s major villain, Richmond Valentine (played brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine is a billionaire who is obsessed with saving the planet and its natural resources. All his research and best laid plans lead him to the conclusion that the earth is too far gone to reverse the damaging effects we have created without a DRASTIC measure being taken (I will not ruin the surprise of what that measure is). If you are a fan of Mr. Jackson, as I am, you have gotten used to Sam Jackson being Sam Jackson, no matter what character he is portraying. It was refreshing for him to stretch just a bit and get out of his comfort zone. It is obvious, however, that he is doing a send-up of a very popular and influential hip-hop mogul in his portrayal, which lends another level of humor to an already hilarious character.

The film itself is layered with homages to classic James Bond films (the British accents, the colorful villain, the neat gadgets) but also tips its cap to other super spies such as Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer (isn’t it interesting that so many spies have the initials JB?…I digress). As the movie laments in a few key scenes, this however is NOT your father’s Bond movie. While slick and stylish, its violence and the amount of blood spilled would fill ten Bond movies. Some might consider the carnage over the top, but the hand-to-hand battle scenes are so well choreographed that a little over the top violence can be forgiven. Even a scene in which hundreds of people’s heads explode was so tastefully done (I know that sounds like an oxymoron), it wasn’t THAT disturbing.

If you are an action film aficionado this is right up your alley. While violence is at a premium, the performances were solid and the wardrobes spectacular (the super secret organization is housed beneath a tailor shop). There is even a small role for Michael Cane as the leader of the Kingsman, and when doesn’t his mere presence class a film up? While the Kingsman world stresses being a proper gentleman, even while in a bar fight, this movie is not for gentlemen. This is a full-bore call to man’s most basic instincts (violence, action, competition, survival). Leave your tux at home and enjoy this one in jeans and a sweatshirt, even if you do partake in a 200-year-old scotch afterwards.