Once again, I’m doing a pretty wretched job of seeing the films I vowed to see at the beginning of the year (see that list here), but this was one I wasn’t about to miss—partly because the other offerings so far this year are apparently terrible, partly because this was the first one I’d been hearing good things about. In fact, I’d been hearing good things about it for some time (I think it came out a few weeks earlier in the UK), so I was kind of anxious to check it out. I wondered, “Could it be the first good movie of the year?”
So on Valentine’s Day weekend when the whole world was freaking out about Fifty Shades of Grey (I know you can’t see this, but I just rolled my eyes), I was venturing out to the theater to see something that I hoped would be much more my style. And you know what? It was totally my style. While Kingsman: The Secret Service may be a little too violent and silly for some, I had an absolute blast with it. It’s like seeing James Bond in his rebellious teen years, and it’s a wonderful thing.
Synopsis: “A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb
The Good: The cast is stacked! First of all, prepare to love Colin Firth in a way you never have before. As suave super spy Harry Hart (codename “Galahad”), he is more kickass than you could possibly imagine. It’s pretty refreshing to see the Oscar winner so…different. Let’s just say that this is not The King’s Speech. Harry becomes a mentor/father figure (of sorts) to young spy-in-training Eggsy, who is played pretty perfectly by newcomer Taron Egerton. I think Egerton’s going to be one to look out for. Tough yet sweet street kid Eggsy practically oozes charm via Egerton’s performance. He’s a very, very likable protagonist. Then there’s the flip side of the good-evil spectrum with Samuel L. Jackson as lisping villain Richmond Valentine, a bizarre character who enjoys the finer things in life—like technology destructive enough to destroy most of the world’s population. Oh, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Mustn’t forget McDonald’s. Valentine is ridiculous, but also pretty funny. Jackson clearly has a blast in the role. Throw in Michael Caine as Kingsman leader Arthur, Mark Strong as techie Merlin, and even a little appearance from Mr. Skywalker himself (Mark Hamill), and it becomes a great ensemble. Outside the impressive cast, there’s still plenty to admire. I really loved the way the fight scenes were shot. Director Matthew Vaughn clearly has an eye for action. It’s all very stylish and cool. There’s an undeniably retro vibe to the film, and it clearly draws some (if not most) of its inspiration from the James Bond films. In many ways Kingsman is a parody film, but a parody that honors the Bond franchise just as much as it makes fun of it. Clearly, its number one priority is to entertain. For me, it does just that. Oh, and did I mention the girl with bladed prosthetic legs? Because there’s a girl with bladed prosthetic legs, and she’s kind of incredible.
Favorite Scene: I’m torn! There are two standout scenes in my mind—the first involving the most bizarre church service you have ever experienced (filmed in a really, really cool way) and the second involving a series of explosions that should be really terrible and violent but are actually completely silly and funny.
The Bad: Alright, here’s something I didn’t appreciate Kingsman taking from the Bond franchise: its often useless women. Aside from awesome blade girl Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), we don’t have a lot to root for. Though I liked her well enough, Kingsman recruit Roxy (Sophie Cookson) ultimately ends up feeling more like a token female character than someone who actually gets to do stuff. She has a pretty important job near the end, I suppose, but it pales in comparison to what the others get to do. Her moment is more of a “face your fear” type thing. Kinda lame. Aside from that, fair warning: lots and lots of violence in this. It’s mostly stylized and unrealistic, so it didn’t bother me too much, but there were a few moments that made me cringe and turn away for a second. If you can’t handle a lot of stuff like that, this one’s probably not for you. Same goes for language. The violence and language aren’t quite Tarantino level, but Kingsman is rated R for a reason. Again, didn’t bother me, but fair warning for everyone else. Other than that, I had a few plot-specific things to nitpick, but I remain as anti-spoilers as ever, so we’ll just leave those be until you’ve seen Kingsman and we can discuss. 😉
Least Favorite Scene: That scene at the very, very end. I’ll leave that a mystery for those of you who haven’t seen it, but for those of you who have…Like, c’mon. I know this one’s imitating Bond and all, but did we really need that? Just seemed kinda random and dumb to me.
To Sum It Up: For me, Kingsman is the one to beat so far this year. That might not seem to be saying much since the offerings of 2015 have been meager so far—not to mention the tidal wave of awesome that will be crashing down starting in May (Age of Ultron yeehaw!)—but I think Kingsman will hold up as a fresh, fun take on the spy genre. As far as I’m concerned, I say bring on the inevitable sequels! 🙂
My Grade: A-