D: Matthew Vaughn. DP: George Richmond. W: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn. Starring: Colin Firth/Samuel L. Jackson/Mark Strong/Taron Egerton/Michael Caine/Sofia Boutella/Mark Hamill/Sophie Cookson/Jack Davenport.
What if the only English spy wasn’t a famous Mr. Bond? The new film Kingsman: The Secret Service answers just that with its own brand of suit wearing and umbrella fashioning gentleman of violence. These groomed benefactors of the aristocracy must find a new replacement for a fallen member and one of their own looks into his past to recruit a street London kid for his exclusive club.
The film’s graphic novel origins are evident with quick swinging camera work that emulates pages of action. Almost every action or fight sequence has an element of slow motion, Matrix-like moments. This is rather fabulous in sequences with Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) whose legs from below the knee are fighting apparatuses. Director Matthew Vaughn, known for Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, is clearly in his element here, but it maybe a bit too much.
Kingsman generously steals, references, and over uses the Bond series to create its style and humor. There are many moments that work, but about halfway through the film the winks become tiresome. A lot of the humor is UK based, these overstated Bond references are probably to help the film internationally. Sadly the use of women in the film harkens back to many a Bond film. There is the woman sidekick as weapon, woman as spy prize, and fellow woman spy, who of course needs help from her comrade to overcome her fears. Why can’t there just be one who kicks ass all on her own? The final sequence with a locked up princess is particularly regrettable.
What makes Kingsman ultimately entertaining is Colin Firth as Galahad (all the Kingsman sport aliases from King Arthur). It can be such fun to see an actor clearly having fun and this part, so against type for Firth, is exactly that. Still cutting in a great suit, his Galahad is plenty panache and substance, generously taking in rough and tumble Eggsy, played by newcomer Taaron Egerton. Egerton holds his own against Firth and other English actors like Michael Caine and Mark Strong. Even Samuel L. Jackson as a sort of Google tyrant is delicious here, much better than he was in Robocop.
Thematically the technological threat of Kingsman is topical, Ex Machina deals with similar issues of privacy and tech sharing or stealing. However, the issues are lost in this sort of package, which addresses the violence more than anything. I would commend Vaughn for never shying away from showing the reality of violence, killing characters and allowing others to show grief. All of this is alive in Kingsman, along with an incredible firework-esq sequence near the end. Ultimately, it could have done more, and we shall see if Vaughn bothers with the sequel as he tends to abandon his projects after one go.