Kingsman: The Secret Service – a review

The name's Kingsman, Colin Kingsman

The name’s Kingsman, Colin Kingsman

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a big loud action romp, which is just what you’d expect from Matthew Vaughn, the man behind Kick Ass. This time, however, Vaughan has stepped it up a gear. Or two. The same hyper-real ultra-violence still shocks and startles but, perhaps with the advances in camera and SFX technology, now even more so than back in 2010.

Colin Firth is pitch perfect as the most gentlemanly English gentleman of them all, Harry Hart (aka secret super-spy Galahad). A hybrid somewhere between a stereotyped old Etonian and a wonderful pastiche of Roger Moore‘s Bond, if slightly more stiff-upper-lip than camp sophistication.

The film opens with a flashback of Hart losing one of his agents on a mission gone wrong which sets up the plot premise of his hunt for a worthy replacement. Enter the wisecracking street-talking free-running Eggsy, played with no less than a debutant explosion by Taron Egerton.

Eggsy must endure a gruelling and perilous training regime before becoming a Kingsman, on the way meeting his fellow hopefuls; a gaggle of public school elites, including the surprising Roxy (Sophie Cookson), who serve to further polarise his ‘from the streets’ background. The movie’s message is one of privilege versus ability,  Kingsman representing the ultimate meritocracy: if you’ve got talent and work hard then you can achieve anything. A solid message for a big budget blockbuster.

First and foremost, this is an action movie and the way it’s captured is quite incredible; either Firth trained to become a bonafide martial artist or the stunt doubles and camera trickery are that seamless that it just looks that way. In either case, watching the fight sequences you simply can’t tell and that’s impressive. Maybe the high octane camera moves, choreographed in harmony with the action, go some way to hiding the editing magic but however they achieved it the stunts are innovative, shocking and brutally brilliant all at the same time.

Samuel L. Jackson‘s affected characterisation of the evil megalomaniac super-villain, Valentine, is well weighted, intentionally getting laughs and being suitably ‘comic book’ but, as it is Samuel L. Jackson, there are glimpses of that irrepressible cool just bursting out at the seams. The casting, ever so slightly, detracts from his total conviction as the baddie. But then he has his devilish sidekick Gazelle, played with beautifully eponymous athletic, but deadly, grace by Sophia Boutella, and you wouldn’t want to mess with her.

The ever-reliable Michael Caine and Mark Strong complete the roster (along with a brief but stunning cameo from Jack Davenport) with assured performances as Firth’s peers and fellow senior statesmen of The Secret Service. Prepare yourself for some unoriginal if entertaining plot twisting and turning…

It’s Men In Black for 2015. But set in London. With spies not aliens. And instead of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith we have Firth and Egerton. So not really anything like Men In Black. “It’s not that kind of movie”, as Valentine relishes. Don’t compare it to anything else, Kingsman is fresh in its realisation, shockingly violent in its delivery and just a great big fun romper-stomper of a ride. Strap in and enjoy.

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