Review of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

For weeks, the only thing anyone heard about as far as movies were concerned was “Fifty Shades of Grey” and how it would dominate (pardon the expression) the box office over Valentine’s weekend. It lived up to expectations tying up (again, pardon the expression) over $81-million in ticket sales. While the rest of the competition was mostly spanked (see apologies above) there was one new movie that managed to pull in a respectable amount of money despite lacking any whips, riding crops and blindfolds. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is what I saw and I suggest you see it as well.

Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) is an intelligent young man who seems to be wasting his life with alcohol, drugs and petty crimes. He’s approached by a Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a dapper gentleman, who tells Eggsy he knew the boy’s deceased father. Hart is a member of a secret British intelligence organization called the Kingsmen. Hart, whose code name is Galahad, operates out of a tailor shop. While the average patron can be fitted for a custom-made suit, a Kingsman agent can access specialty weapons and an underground pneumatic transport system that goes directly to a villa in the English countryside, the headquarters of the Kingsmen. Galahad informs Eggsy his father was a Kingsman and died on a mission when Eggsy was a very young boy. Galahad encourages Eggsy to try out for a recent opening due to the death of an agent codenamed Lancelot. Lancelot died trying to rescue Professor James Arnold (Mark Hamill), an environmental and global warming expert who had been kidnapped by Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his accomplice Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Gazelle has prosthetic legs armed with razor sharp swords which she uses to kill Lancelot. Valentine, a tech billionaire, has been trying for years to get politicians to do something about carbon emissions without success. He has developed a new plan and approaches many celebrities and world leaders for their support, offering them deals they cannot refuse. For those who turn Valentine down, they are locked up in his mountain headquarters. While Valentine wants to save the planet, he doesn’t care how many billions of people have to die to make his plan succeed. Eggsy and several other young people are led through the many tests and trials to become a Kingsman by Agent Merlin (Mark Strong) while Galahad continues his investigation into Valentine’s plan.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” has a very light, jaunty feel to it. It doesn’t take itself seriously and is able to create both humor and excitement, often simultaneously. The film succeeds at being entertaining for several reasons. First, the story moves at a quick pace, rarely staying in the same place for very long. The filmmakers know the target audience doesn’t like taking the time for a huge amount of backstory so much of that is handled in a few sentences at appropriate times. This cuts down on long scenes of exposition and keeps the plot moving forward.

A second reason is the cast. A film like “Kingsman: The Secret Service” rarely has a group of actors with this many A-listers. Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine and Mark Hamill all in one film based on a comic book is not something one sees every weekend. The lesser known members of the cast, Taron Egerton, Sophie Cookson and Sofia Boutella, are a nice garnish to an already stellar mixture of actors. Everyone in the film is excellent and they all seem to be having a great time.

The script seems to have its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The style and tone of the dialog, usually delivered in either an upper crust or working class British accent, just feels like fun. Even when the movie has its bloodier moments, and there are plenty, the script manages to keep things light. It also doesn’t mind taking a look at other films of the genre, including the granddaddy of them all the “Bond” series. Firth’s character makes reference to the darker tone of the most recent films and says he prefers the earlier incarnations of Bond. The movie seems to pay homage to those films with the number of gadgets a Kingsman has at his disposal. I won’t try to mention them all here but they run the gamut from classic (knife popping out of the toe of a shoe) to fantastic (a bulletproof umbrella with other built-in weapons). Some of these gadgets are more believable and hence more effective than others. Still, one must suspend some disbelief if the movie is to be enjoyed. The film uses technology heavily throughout the story including the main plan of the villain. The movie may actually depend too much on gadgets to keep the action moving. A spy movie should be mostly about the spy doing some spying. That isn’t so much the case here; however, this is a minor fault when compared to how entertaining the rest of the film is.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content. There are numerous violent and bloody deaths in the film including numerous head shots, limbs severed, a person cut in half down the middle and numerous images of heads exploding. Surprisingly, the exploding heads are handled in a rather tasteful way. There is very little gore and it mostly looks like colored smoke billowing up from the neck. There is an early passing reference to sex then late in the film we get a brief glimpse at a young woman’s backside with the understanding that anal sex is about to occur. Foul language is common throughout the film.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a spy film populated with very interesting characters including Samuel L. Jackson’s lisping villain and Sofia Boutella’s blade runner prosthetic wearing henchperson. It also features an exciting story, terrific action and likable characters about whom I wanted to know more. While it depends a bit too much on technology and not enough on the human aspect, there are still characters we root for and want to see triumph. It may never win any major awards or be considered a classic but it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours in a movie theatre without feeling like you need to take a shower afterwards.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” gets five stars out of five.

This week, four new movies (assuming the expected snow melts in time for me to get out) vie for your entertainment dollars. I’ll see and review one of the following:

The DUFF—

Hot Tub Time Machine 2—

McFarland USA—

Still Alice—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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