Kingsman: The Secret Service, while not as slapstick as Austin Powers, offered Glen Falkenstein some cracking jokes and hammy action accompanied by solid performances, particularly from Colin Firth.
“You are about to embark on the most dangerous job interview in the world.”
Gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruits Garry “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) as his candidate to join the elite Kingsman, a very British spy agency that takes it upon itself to get the bad guys and save the world. Hart attempts to pull a My Fair Lady and transform Eggsy from a street lad into a dapper English secret service agent. Learning to shoot, skydive, fight and operate bulletproof umbrellas, Eggsy is taught how to speak, how to act and how to wear a suit: the “modern gentleman’s armour.” The villain in all this, or as Hart puts it, the “futuristic colourful megalomaniac” is Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), a crazy yet personable environmentalist. His No.2, an assassin with blades for legs.
More grounded than Austin Powers and less slapstick than Johnny English, director Matthew Vaughn has made a film that both celebrates and mocks the traditional spy thriller and all-things British. Hart goes so far as to tell Valentine, “Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones…marvellous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.”
The film’s action sequences range from excessively hammy to a frenzied, mass free-for-all in a church. Overflowing with both stylistic and explicit violence, Kingsman, like Vaughn’s previous effort Kick-Ass, features gouging, stabbing, shooting, explosives and excessive gore so gratuitous that you can’t help but laugh once you’ve overcome the shock of its revolting exuberance. Slightly disconcerting is the unexpected and sudden loss of a central character about two thirds of the way into the film, much of their appeal being their yet unexplored potential. Not unlike Kick-Ass, Kingsman puts a younger, lesser-known actor front and centre, with the veteran stepping aside to allow their protégé to transform and take on the mantle.
Michael Caine plays to type as the elderly, experienced head of the Kingsman, while Mark Strong (also in Vaughn’s Kick Ass) plays the Service’s tech-expert, or Q. Mark Hamill makes a cameo as a professor at the centre of Valentine’s enviro-plot to take over the world.
Kingsman is an entertaining spy parody that will appeal to both a younger audience accustomed to action-heavy thrillers and an older audience inclined to more traditional British action capers. It’s a real treat seeing Colin Firth take the gloves off and it helps if you don’t take it all too seriously.