Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”)
Written by: Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”) and Jane Goldman (“X-Men: First Class”)
After going all out with the stylistic violence and edgy humor of “Kick-Ass,” director Matthew Vaughn may have seemed like a surprising choice to reboot the studio-run “X-Men” franchise. Despite this fact, “X-Men: First Class” was a massive success and widely seen as an injection of rejuvenation into the Marvel moneymaker. Perhaps old habits die hard, however, as “Kingsman: The Secret Service” sees Vaughn and writing partner Jane Goldman return to the adult-themed bloodbaths introduced in “Kick-Ass,” complete with a British spy twist.
After losing a valuable member of their spy service, the Kingsman set out to replace a lost member with Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a street kid with little potential. As his mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth) sets out to train Eggsy while trying to foil a billionaire Internet tycoon (Samuel L. Jackson) with a questionable plan to control humanity.
Firth might seem like the last choice for casting in a physical role as a badass, gun-toting spy, and that very well may be why it works so well. It is equal parts unexpected and fantastic as Firth is an unanticipated natural, especially in scenes that call for mayhem. As a lead, Egerton is a natural. Despite his relatively unknown state in American film, he is charismatic and charming, feeding off of Firth while also being able to stand on his own. Even though there are some memorable characters, “Kingsman” isn’t entirely successful on this front. Most notably, Samuel L. Jackson turns in a hammy performance as a villain with an inexplicable lisp that adds nothing to the mix other than its inherent eccentricity.
A lot of the faults of “Kingsman” fall on the screenplay, which struggles to find a steady tone. The first half of the film is almost entirely meant to evoke spy-films and training expertise, while the second half goes completely off the rails and is filled with adult-humor, often times skewing towards the juvenile. It is also worth mentioning that the villain turn and frankly, the entire villain plotline is flimsy at best, with an extremely general mind control device and a convoluted “global warming” explanation that is barely explored.
One thing that is undeniable, however, is that “Kingsman” is sleek and stylish. Taking its cues from its dapperly dressed leads, Vaughn creates quick-paced and visually gratifying action set pieces, none better than an incredibly well choreographed scene of chaos in a church set absolutely brilliantly to the soaring guitar solo of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” The visual effects may look spotty from time to time, but Vaughn shows a clear interest in tailor making a visually unique spy series.
If “Kingsman” has one thing going for it, it is that it knows exactly what kind of movie it is. It is filled with unapologetic, and at times, gratuitous violence. Ultimately, it has one mission, and one mission alone: to entertain by any means necessary. With that being said, your level of entertainment is likely to depend on the length to which you can buy into the film’s absurdity. If you’re in from the get-go, you’ll be able to strap in and enjoy the ride. If you’re like me and on the fence about it, the films climax goes a touch too far, and comes off as way too silly and over-the-top to be considered entertaining. There’s a lot to like about this take on the spy genre, but Vaughn traded substance, sense and characterization for pure bloody mayhem, which is likely to work for some, but not for all.