Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

Posted: June 21, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Kingsman-The-Secret-Service-2014Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s been interesting to watch Matthew Vaughn’s directorial career grow over the last few years. His debut film Layer Cake may have been a pretty obvious riff on the Tarantino crime film, but one of the better examples of the subgenre. I was less fond of his fantasy follow-up Stardust, but his subversive superhero film Kick Ass proved a lot of fun despite some major flaws. Vaughn’s best work, and breakthrough as a major talent is almost certainly X-Men: First Class, a film which harnessed Vaughn’s stylistic abilities and combined them with a mature and emotionally resonant story. I couldn’t wait to see what Vaughn would do next, and a spy film based on a Mark Millar comic seemed a promising project. However the trailers for Kingsman: The Secret Service struck me as incredibly dumb, and a massive step back for the director. The early release date also scared me off. However the film opened to very positive reviews and I found myself curious to eventually catch up with Kingsman at home.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young man from a low income family in London. He shows a lot of potential physically and mentally, but has fallen into a life of petty crime. After Eggsy is arrested, he finds himself saved by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a well-dressed middle-aged man claiming to be a tailor. However Harry actually belongs to an organization known as the Kingsmen, a group of highly trained spies who operate above government and nationality. The group is looking for a replacement after one of their members has been killed, and Hart has put forth Eggsy as his candidate, in part due to guilt over Harry’s relationship with Eggsy’s father 17 years earlier. Simultaneously, internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has launched a secret plot which involves kidnapping famous and wealthy individuals, while Harry investigates.

Many have been quick to point out similarities with Kingsman and the James Bond series, of which the film itself even references. The sophisticated British spies and the villainous scheme are all reminiscent of the legendary spy series, but this film is very different in style, tone and personality. For one, Kingsman is rated R, with far more graphic violence and profane dialogue than you’ll ever see in a 007 adventure. The characters and humour is a lot broader, and generally the film’s style is pretty aggressive. Vaughn’s style is a welcome addition as it helps elevate what is some very familiar elements. The Bondian villainous scheme is fairly standard for example, but Sam Jackson’s animated villain is so modern and strangely comical that it keeps things fresh. Similarly, the training elements are comparable to movies like Men in Black, but the set-pieces constructed around these scenes are pretty cool. The duel narratives do run into the problem however in that they sort of undercut each other. So much time is devoted to the training that Kingsman doesn’t have a lot of time to become a spy story. On the flipside, the spy plot robs the nuance of the training, which is mostly relegated to montage.

The action scenes here are largely solid, but there not quite as good as I’d hoped. Vaughn is a bit coo concerned with making his action scenes as “cool” as possible and it comes off as desperate. The excessive slow motion, choppy editing, general over the top ness is largely unnecessary and only there to serve itself. The best action scenes are the ones that don’t feel the need to call much attention to themselves. Additionally, while I don’t have anything inherently against violent action films, this one really does push things. It’s not merely the levels of violence, but the attitudes that bothered me. The violence is horrific, but the film’s attitude toward it is not only casual, but downright encouraging. The film is too eager and gleeful in its depiction of violence, and it’s hard to defend as necessary.

I was on the fence for a large part of the film, but I was won over by a few elements. For starters, I think the cast here is really good. Veteran actors like Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Michael Caine all fill their roles nicely, while Sam Jackson makes for a surprisingly fun villain. The guy is funny, but Jackson is also very menacing. I also really liked Taron Eggerton in the lead role, who is likable, and believable as a kid from a poor upbringing. The film also ends on a really awesome shootout through a compound that really delivered. The score is really good too. These elements, plus Vaughn’s energetic filmmaking make Kingsman a fun film. Is this a step back from X-Men: First Class? Absolutely. This is a shallow film with little on its mind beyond base entertainment, but it does succeed in that goal.


  1. ianthecool says:

    Does it succeed? Does it really? You yourself said he is too concerned with making his action scenes look cool. That sort of pretentiousness I would consider something that makes the movie NOT succeed. And I mean, the main character’s name is Eggsy. You are too easy on this one. ;)

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