Film Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

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Matthew Vaughn looks to recreate the obnoxiously impertinent spirit of Kick Ass with Kingsman: The Secret Service, another Jane Goodman-penned adaptation of a Mark Millar comic. Vaughn hit a high note with Kick Ass, offending almost as many people as he enticed, but making a pretty damn good fist of capturing the comic book’s rude, raucous sensibility. So the director is on pretty well-trodden ground with his source material and his screenwriter. He even brings the excellent Mark Strong back for another bite at the graphic novel cherry with results that arguably surpass his previous forays into comic books.

Colin Firth is Harry Hart, codename Galahad, the archetypal example of that most British of personalities, the gentleman spy. After losing one of their number on a mission in Argentina, each remaining member of the Kingsman Secret Service begins the task of seeking a candidate for his replacement. Hart’s contribution is to approach Eggsy (Taron Egerton), council estate ne’er-do-well and scallywag son of his former protégé. Lacking the upper-class upbringing, public school education and Received Pronunciation of the usual crop of Kingsman agents, Hart has picked the unlikeliest of candidates to fill the newly-vacated role, thereby attempting modernise the old boys club that is his elusive spy network. He efforts are interrupted though by the actions of megalomaniac billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), who hatches a suitably fiendish plan to wipe out most of, if not all, life on earth.

Kingsman is in many ways an extended riff on the old Bond movies. In one face-to-face moment Hart and Valentine discuss their mutual fondness for old spy films, and Firth’s debonair tutor always places a premium on looking his best when he goes into battle. A suit, we are told is a modern gentleman’s armour and manners maketh the man. This sartorial elegance is complimented by some genuinely jaw-dropping, riotous action. If you were fond of Kick Ass’s calling-card scene in, which Hit Girl gleefully slices and dices a room full of thugs, you’ll find much to enjoy in this. Colin Firth, stretches himself with an atypically action-filled role and deals out a fair deal of punishment; a few moments of which had me quite literally open-mouthed in shock. The trading places style meddling of upper and working-class lifestyles (incidentally referenced in the script) casts a wry eye over the changing face of British masculinity and, if perhaps the eco-warrior subplot gets lost amongst the carnage, there’s a clever, dry wit to this that cuts to the bone.

When Hart and Valentine discuss their favourite spy films they agree on one salient point. Modern spy films are too serious, lacking fun. That’s not a criticism you could ever throw at this.

Chris Banks

Genre: Action, Comedy Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Release Date: 29th January 2015 (UK) 13 February 2015 (USA) Rating: 15 Director: Matthew Vaughn Cast: Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella