“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is, in a lot of ways, an embodiment of Matthew Vaughn’s entire filmography. There are parts that have the wide-eye optimism of “Stardust”. But, it also takes on the grit of “Layer Cake”, the subversive satire of “Kick-Ass”, and the dramatic style of “X-Men: First Class”. It feels like Vaughn has been building to this film, honing his individual talents for a film like this.
Which is to say, this is Vaughn’s James Bond. But, it’s Bond in a way that the suits at MGM and Sony would never allow that franchise to be… R rated…. Hard R rated. In many ways, that is the film’s biggest statement on the state of the spy genre. It’s not halfway about anything, it goes all the way. Perhaps, one of the best thing about this film is that it commits. It never quits.
Which is to say, I really liked this film a lot. I don’t love it, though. Even though there are things I love about it, it doesn’t necessarily add up to a great movie, it’s a good movie with great parts in it. Let me explain…
First of all, I think the casting is phenomenal. Colin Firth does a Liam Neeson, and takes on his first full-on action movie role. Only, this time, I think Firth does superior work to what Neeson does in any of the “Taken” movies. Firth brings weight and class to the film, creating a character that feels like it belongs in the world of spy films. What sells his character is that Colin Firth, not a stunt double (for the most part), does almost everything in terms of fights. And, you can tell. He’s actually performing in a way we’re not used to seeing him perform.
Much has been made about the film’s long-hyped “Church Scene”. But, one cannot oversell this scene. It is INCREDIBLE, almost on a “The Raid 2” level kind of insanity and violence. It’s beautiful choreographed, and amazingly filmed. Which makes sense, seeing that all the fight scenes were designed and choreographed by Brad Allen, a man who trained under Jackie Chan’s stunt team, and graduated to the big leagues with films like this. I’d argue that this scene might become a new classic fight scene in due time.
This isn’t, however, Colin Firth’s film. This is the story of Eggsy, played by newcomer Taron Egerton. He does great work here, and fits in well as a leading man. One can tell that this kid is gonna be a big star in the future. I got an almost early Tom Cruise-like vibe from him, he just has that charisma and swagger that creates big movie stars like this. Egerton carries the film for the most part, and he does it well… Although, I have one beef with his character. More on that in a sec.
The rest of the casting works too. The likes of Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Mark Hamill show up here. But, the one supporting cast member who stands out is Samuel L. Jackson as “Valentine”. He plays a straight-up villain, however he is humanized by certain quirks. He speaks with a lisp, and cannot stand the sight of violence. It’s one of the weirdest bad guy roles I’ve seen in awhile.
But, this movie gets repeatedly held back from greatness because of its flaws. First off, the visuals (for the most part) are well done. However, towards the end, the visual effects take on a cheapness as if the filmmakers ran out of money by the end. This is a problem I feel like plagues ALOT of Matthew Vaughn’s films. I liken this to the ending of “Kick-Ass”, in which I felt that movie betrayed its (strong) first two acts, and became a totally different movie. “Kingsman” doesn’t necessarily have the same problem, but I feel like the film’s ending is compromised by its weirdly inorganic pace, and its visual limitations. In fact, I’d argue that the film’s ending just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same world as the film’s beginning. It just doesn’t fit.
The issues with this film also bleed into some of your side characters also. Like Roxy, our female counterpart to Eggsy, is given a half-baked story arc. There’s a promise that doesn’t get fulfilled thanks to the movie under-developing her. The same goes for who is supposed to be Eggsy’s nemesis. He disappears from the movie in the middle, and then comes back again towards its ending in the lamest of ways possible. It doesn’t sell. What also doesn’t sell is Eggsy supposedly coming from what is London’s equivalent to “The Ghetto”. He seems a little too well-spoken, and a little to clean-cut to realistically convince us that he’s from a South London slum. It just doesn’t sell.
The film prides itself on not being very PC. So, there’s ALOT of shit that will bother people in this film. In particular, the final gag left a rotten taste in a lot of people’s mouths. I’m not sure where I stand, I don’t think the movie was undone by what happens, but keep in mind that it’s there.
These individual pieces keep it from being a “great movie”. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun with this. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t wanna see it again just to re-experience the scenes that I loved, and the moments that make this something special rather than something average. I have no problem recommending people to go out to the theaters, and check this out. It’s well-worth your time and your money.