A Review of Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: Stylish, Energetic, and Quite a Bit of Fun

kingsman: the secret service

Film: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Primary Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamil
US Release Date: 13 February 2015

To be honest, when I first saw a trailer for Kingsman, I wrote it off as a film that I wouldn’t pay to see. I figured that I would watch it online at some point—after all, the bae Colin Firth is in it—but it never really made it onto my radar. When I decided to make my way to the movie theater last night, I originally intended to see Chappie. That didn’t happen, but I can’t say I’m mad about that one bit.

While it has its missteps and does seem to lack focus at times, Kingsman blends action, comedy, and certain energetic recklessness into what ends up being an inspired and perfectly enjoyable ride. 

The Premise 
Harry Hart (code name: Galahad, played by a perfectly cast Colin Firth) is a Kingsman—one of a group of exceptionally dapper and apparently international (but very English) secret agents who get their code names from the Knights of the Round Table. While on a mission in 1997, Harry makes a mistake that should have cost him his life. The only reason it doesn’t, is because one of the agents he is training sacrifices himself to save him.

Flash forward 17 years. One of the Kingsman (aka Lancelot) dies while trying to rescue a kidnapped climate change professor (Hamil). Arthur (Caine) assembles the Kingsmen to inform them of their loss and instructs them to recruit potential candidates to replace the fallen Lancelot. All of the Kingsmen except Harry (who do not really appear in the film) recruit very posh and wealthy young people to compete for the job. Harry, on the other hand, recruits a low income kid who has a habit of stealing things. His name is Eggsy (Egerton), and he just happens to be the son of the man who saved Harry’s life. Attracted by the possibility of getting to play spy and eager to escape his mother’s abusive boyfriend, Eggsy agrees to go through the (terribly lengthy and rather complicated) process of trying out to become a Kingsman. The try out/ job interview is conducted primarily by Merlin (Strong).

While Harry tries to figure out why Lancelot died and while Eggsy and the other recruits complete a series of rather difficult tasks, the billionaire Richard Valentine (Jackson) plots to kill off most of mankind. Some rather enjoyable (and sometimes, slightly strange) things ensue.

The Positives 
I’ll probably say it several times before this review is over, but Kingsman really is a lot of fun. The film’s particular brand of action-meets-comedy-entertainment is well-executed and makes for an energizing and incredibly enjoyable ride. It’s postmodern, it’s pastiche, it’s absurd, and its taste is little questionable at times, but it works. The film is unapologetic and it does what it wants to do; that it ends up being better than most Hollywood action films and comedies alike in the process says a lot. 

Kingsman is visually stylish, and some of its action scenes are some of the best I’ve seen in recent months. Not only are such scenes well-choreographed and slickly shot, but they are also as grin-inducing as many of its best jokes. One such scene in particular (which involves Harry, a hate-filled church, and a lot of blood) will have people talking for some time to come. It’s the sort of scene that is so outlandish and alive, that you can’t help but be delighted, and it remains vivid in one’s memory long after the film is over.

As Harry Hart/ Galahad, Colin Firth (who is incredibly sexy good lord help us) steals every scene in which he appears. He is perfect for the role, and is a delight to watch. He goes from dapper and serious and bad ass, to kind and fatherly and comedic with an incredible ease, and he really does bring a sense of life to the film.

As the young and unrefined Eggsy, Egerton also does a fine job in the film. That the relative newcomer manages to hold his own among the likes of Firth, Strong, and Caine says a great deal, and this certainly won’t be his last big leading role.

While we’re on the topic of performances, I would also like to add that Mark Strong was much funnier in this film than I expected him to be. So, yay for that?

I know it’s a vague thing to say, but Kingsman is a film with a pulse. You can tell that the filmmakers had fun while making it, and there unmistakable creative (and often brash) energy beneath it all that is definitely responsible for good deal of its success. 

The Problems
Kingsman is a film that isn’t afraid to take certain risks. The film is clearly one that doesn’t want to obey any strict set of conventions or that is interested in confining itself to any clear set of narrative or generic boundaries. While this attitude is often the source of some of the film’s best moments, it also causes a few of its problems. Given the considerable verve with which Kingsman bounces all over the place, it seems only inevitable that a few missteps happen along the way; it’s just a shame that they weren’t a bit fewer in number.

The film’s sense of humor is often irreverent, and Vaughn certainly seems to take pleasure in entertaining his viewers by shocking them. This is not in any way an inherently bad thing (in fact, it makes the film pretty fun most of the time), but Kingsman does feature a number of jokes that don’t work as well as they could. Some are harmless, but fall flat. Others (like the anal sex one near the end) were a little more cringe worthy and even made me uncomfortable. This is a film with personality to be sure, but I do wish that personality had been just a tad more refined.

As much as I enjoyed Kingsman, I am also left wondering whether it could have been improved by narrowing its focus and controlling its tone a little more than it does. I understand that the film wants to freely occupy the space between slick action and outlandish comedy (while also showing some of the similarities between the two); but in exploring such murky and mixed generic territory, things sometimes get a tad too hazy for my liking. If the narrative had been trimmed just a tad, and if the film had more fully committed to to the world of parody, it may have been more successful.

As often happens in action movies (as well as in just about any Hollywood blockbuster with a sizable cast), Kingsman doesn’t do quite enough to develop a number of its side characters. Nearly all of the recruits who aren’t Eggsy are entirely forgettable, as are a number of other characters who aren’t Harry, Merlin, and Valentine. While her action scenes are quite impressive, I do wish that Gazelle (Valentine’s henchwoman, played by Sofia Boutella) were written more strongly; the film may not be about her, but I am still left with the nagging feeling that much of this particular character’s potential was wasted.

To Sum Up
Ultimately, Kingsman works best when it’s taken on its own terms. No, this isn’t the type of film that I typically seek out; but I genuinely enjoyed it all the same. One should go into Kingsman ready and willing to have a good time, and should not try to read too closely into the whole thing. As slick, as stylish, and as deliberately irreverent as it is at times, this is not a film that takes itself too seriously (if it did, it might veer toward the insufferable). Vaughn’s latest is meant to shock, to surprise, to delight and to entertain and, for the most part, it accomplishes this quite well; that is manages to remain pretty creative and to reveal a few flashes of brilliance along the way is just icing on the cake. If you can accept the fact the some of its jokes are better than others and that it tends to offer more surface than substance, then Kingsman really is a pretty decent way to spend 2 hours. 

Until Next Time
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read and visit this blog. If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like to share, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. And remember, if you want to know whenever I publish a new post, you can follow this blog through wordpress, via email, or on twitter.

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