Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

Before anything else, can we all agree what a terrible name for a movie Kingsman: The Secret Service is? I mean, why does it mention the secret service? Why is it singular and not plural since the movie is about the organization as much as it’s about anything? Weird.

So this movie is about a secret organization of spies slash men of action who go around the world saving the day but doing it all very secretly without anybody knowing it. Modeled after Arthur, the Round Table and his knights, the movie deals primarily with the recruitment and training of a young man named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) by Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) into the secret organization. Harry is somewhat of a rogue in that he recruits Eggsy, who is not of the highest social classes of England, into the very blue blood secret society. Meanwhile, the bad guy of this movie is Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who has secret plan to kill most of the human population while keeping a select group alive for the new world order he plans to build. The way he plans on killing billions of people at once is extremely clever and one of the best plot points of the film so I’m not going to spoil it, but just know that I very much enjoyed it. Death, destructions and class warfare occur before Eggsy, Merlin (Mark Strong) and the new Lancelot (Sophie Cookson) can save the day and kill just about every celebrity and world leader who are all in on the evil plan.

This movie is an adaptation of a Mark Millar comic book series and as such it’s got all the hallmarks of a Millar inspired movie. It’s at times touching, crass, hyper-violent, emotional and weirdly insightful. I don’t know what it is about Millar but his movies manage to strike a delicate balance, but they very often do (though not always, Kick-Ass 2 does not work). Much like the first Kick-Ass, director Matthew Vaughn makes just about every right decision he can, which makes this movie quite enjoyable. Adaptations of works in other mediums, books or comic books or whatever, are tricky because you have so much pre existing events and images that can cloud the movie makers and shackle them to a final product that doesn’t really matter to the movie. Mark Millar and whoever else is in charge of his movies never fall into that trap though. The movie versions are almost always fully fleshed out and their own thing for the big screen; some are far different than the comic, some are much closer in vision, but they usually are better off on the screen. Millar seems to understand that doing things that is best for the movie is actually whats best because we are watching a movie before anything else.

The movie is an obvious send up to James Bond films and its loyalty to that kind of film is what makes it so enjoyable. From characters commenting about how much better spy films used to be, to the absurdly and instantly classic Bond-ian plot of the villain, the fingerprints of 007 are everywhere in this film and the film does a good job of taking all that to the next degree without it feeling ham fisted, unlike so many Roger Moore James Bond films.

The acting in this movie is pretty great all around, but the stand out is Colin Firth, who plays an excellent and somehow more British version of the James Bond archetype. While he is definitely a stone cold killer, Firth brings a lot of heart and humanity to the role when the role didn’t necessarily need it. His connection with Eggsy, his young pseudo-ward, is well done and the chemistry between the two of them is strong and emotional. There are several moments of warmth and humanity throughout the film that really surprised and impressed me. I said it before, but I there is something really unique about the ability of Millar to express real humanity mere moments after people got their heads blown up. It’s a very interesting dynamic that always makes me interested in watching these movies.

The action in this movie is really quite good; from an early scene where Eggsy runs around some rooftops to a bloody scene in a church, the action movies and flows in a fun and consistent way. The director does an excellent job of showing the action in a kinetic way that never loses focus on who it’s showcasing. The scene in the church, where a mind controlled Harry Hart and a host of hateful, would be Christian fundamental terrorists beat the tar out of each other, is so completely unexpected because we don’t know that is going on or why anybody is doing what they are doing. It’s unsettling and exhilarating. When you think about it, most of the plots that villains in these kinds of movies concoct are horrendous and would end with the death of millions. Well, unlike so many of those movies, this movie actually shows what that would be, and it’s pretty terrible. It makes you think back to all those old movie plots with a new eye to just how horrible the bad guys were.

Everything about this movie is competently made, which is a good thing. It’s a fun action movie that pays homage to James Bond while still tweaking things enough that it feels fresh and new; that classic testosterone filled action sense of this movie is tempered by unexpectedly endearing characters. It’s extremely violent, more so than any Bond film, but other than that it falls right into place with all the other fun and well done James Bond rifts.

Next Movie: Jeremiah Johnson

Next Book: The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America 1900-1918 by Ruth Rosen

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