Kingsman: The Secret Service
I just got back from a free preview of the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service, due out February 13. I had fun, since there were twists I wasn’t expecting (although I didn’t like some of them). Then again, I didn’t remember much about the comic it was based on.
It’s an action-adventure spy film, emphasis on the action. The plot threads are familiar: young aimless dude Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is taken under the wing of accomplished, well-dressed older man (Colin Firth, codenamed Galahad, which is so silly I kept forgetting it). Although Eggsy doesn’t follow the rules of the spy organization, he wins through in the end, demonstrating the value of spirit and initiative over propriety.
I found the spy setup amusing, with the use of classic British symbols. The Kingsman organization sets up in a tailor shop, and the operatives are beautifully dressed, with brollies and glasses. Their spy gadgets are gold lighters and signet rings and such, and they’re always gentlemen, in addition to being perfectly trained. The people in the organization we see most are the leader (Michael Caine, of course) and the tech genius/trainer (Mark Strong, in a nice change for him). I wish Jack Davenport (another Kingsman) had been in the film more, since I’ve liked him since Coupling.
The pacing is similarly British, slower than other movies in its genre, and several of the scenes go on too long. Typical of Mark Millar’s work, there’s a certain amount of self-referential foregrounding of cliches to say “see, I know the cliches, and I’m smarter, so I’m pointing them out and doing something else” — yet there are still an awful lot of cliches that the film relies upon.
There are a number of major female roles, but none of them interact with each other. We’re told the female Kingsman recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), is incredibly talented, but we only see her do things after Eggsy holds her hand or encourages her to overcome her fears. Super-rich bad guy Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a lisp and a series of baseball caps) has a female second-in-command, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who uses the blades inside her prosthetic foot-hooks (think running blades, but really sharp) to kill people.
It’s with Valentine that the movie’s costs becomes most apparent, because for a billionaire tech genius, there are rarely any people around him, just Gazelle. I think they spent all the money on the extensive fight scenes, which go into great detail, in slow motion, with different creative ways to violently kill people. It’s so lovingly filmed and so cartoony, though, that it didn’t bother me. It is very violent, though, so take note. (Update: I have since realized that this film is not yet rated, so some of the most violent scenes may be trimmed or edited.)
Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) co-wrote and directed the film. There’s a training section, as Eggsy competes against other, higher-class possibilities for the organization opening. There’s a “show how tough he is” fight scene for Firth (as shown in the second trailer) that belies his proper appearance. There’s an abusive stepfather for Eggsy to rescue his mother from. There’s some pasted-in class debate to provide the superficial appearance of depth beyond the fight scenes, as well as a cartoonishly bigoted Southern church to attack. There’s the “saving the world” final third act, where lots of anonymous henchmen get mowed down. There’s even a cute dog.
For an alternative perspective, the friend I went with said it was “bad. Gloriously bad. They’re clearly working very hard at making something this bad.” It’s true. There’s a lot of effort on the screen. Whether you enjoy it or not may depend on your expectations. Mine were extraordinarily low — I was happy just seeing Colin Firth in some nice suits. Oh, and Mark Hamill plays a supporting role, which may please fans of the comic.