Imagine a man who out-suaves Connery’s Bond, who out-ass kicks Kick Ass and whose belief in manners are an excuse to brutalise an entire pub. This is Colin Firth’s Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Director Matthew Vaughn fresh from his exploits with the X-Men returns to the comic book genre with an adaptation of The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, with hopes of injecting some fun into the more serious spy thrillers of recent years.
Harry Hart AKA Galahad (Firth) is a member of Kingsman, a scecret service bound to protect the world from any threats. A mission in the Middle East in 1997 goes wrong leading to the death of agent Lancelot. Returning home Galahad gives a Kingsman medal to Lancelot’s son Eggsy with a promise that if ever he’s in trouble he’s to call with a code word and Galahad will protect him. Flash-forward to the modern day and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is arrested for stealing a car and is saved by Galahad and offered the opportunity to join Kingsman, providing he can best his other trainees. Meanwhile an eccentric billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) tired of fighting against global warming develops a plot to save the planet through less than orthodox means. The Kingsman’s agents are ordered to stop him at all costs.
If ever there was any doubt in the influences of Kingsman, they are dispelled in minutes. This is James Bond, as he should be. Vaughn clearly feels that recent spy films like The Bourne Identity and Skyfall have moved the spy character into far too reality-based escapades and brings the entire genre back to the realm of silly with an exploding head or two. Think Roger Moore’s era as Bond, then mix in some Kick-Ass and a healthy dose of My Fair Lady (or Pretty Woman if you prefer) oh and the exploding heads.
Kinsman you see is simultenously a spy thriller, comedy farce, but where it’s original is in its violence. Nothing is off limits, from killing famous real-life political people, to having a henchman with the ‘blade runner’ legs made famous by Oscar Pistorius. There is no depth too low for the film to plumb in order to get a laugh and it works fantastically. Firth is the suavest hero in decades and his rules of being a gentlemen will no doubt lead to copycats in popular culture, and he does for Savile Row suits in this what Marilyn Monroe did for white cocktail dresses in The Seven Year Itch. He even reclaims the song Freebird from The Devil’s rejects in the films standout ultra-violent set-piece, proving that it’s a song packed full of action scene potential.
The supporting cast are perfect, with Mark Strong the Q-a-like genius called Merlin and Michael Caine as old head of the organisation Arthur. Taron Egerton manages to bring enough grounded truth to his young Eggsy without falling into the realms of the cliched ‘film cockney’ and Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having a blast as the lisping maniacal nutcase whose plot threatens the world, but whose aversion to violence leads to some of the funniest scenes.
The constant flip-flopping between serious drama, action comedy and good old fashioned spy farce do give Kingsman a rather frantic, all-over-place feeling and there are elements that drag the pace down to a crawl, but Vaughn uses them to build interest in his characters just enough to keep the narrative moving and while it can occasionally be a bit of chore the action is sure to explode sooner rather than later and make you forget.
There have been attempts to make a Bond-esque spy thriller about younger characters before, but nobody had the balls to make it for adults only until Matthew Vaughn and the result is a that Kingsman is to Bond what Kick-Ass was to Spider-Man.