Articles, Film Reviews

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

It’s certainly acceptable to scrunch your nose in objection when a multitude of heads explode on screen throughout Kingsman: The Secret Service, but the fact that it is done so in a cartoonish way that strangely evokes Looney Tunes and Fantasia should adjust that nose scrunch to a grin. This was actually a frequent reaction of mine when watching director Matthew Vaughn’s constantly amusing action film, which tells the story of a hoodlum who becomes the protégé of a veteran spy agent.

Some will say that the absurd violence subtracts from the viewing experience, but the far-fetch theatricality is what separates this film from the Bourne films and the Daniel Craig-fronted Bond films. I guess what I’m saying is that I miss the over-the-top craziness that was responsible for momentarily killing the Bond franchise with the shoddy Die Another Day. That alone should be reason enough to judge Kingsman as a success.

The film stars the up-and-coming Taron Egerton, as Eggsy, a young man whose life seems to have no purpose. After being arrested for stealing a car, Eggsy takes a chance on calling a number found on the back of a medal given to him at a young age. As a result, he is immediately freed and met by the suave Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a member of the secret intelligence agency known as the Kingsman.

With Eggsy under Harry’s wing, he is introduced to the Kingsman organization and begins a competitive series of tests that include surviving spontaneous indoor flooding and jumping out of a an airplane. Meanwhile a media mogul named Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is devising a plot of eco-terrorism that involves providing the world with free SIM cards for complete cellular and Internet access. Of course these are not your typical SIM cards, as they give Valentine the power to broadcast a signal that makes anyone in contact become uncontrollably violent. Thus, his ultimate plan of population control is just a click away (or, in this case, a handprint scan away).

The film is based loosely on a comic book series written by Mark Miller, the writer behind other film-adapted comics like Wanted and Kick-Ass. If you are familiar with his work, or even the film adaptations of his work, you will know that there is no filter for brutality and harsh language here. Though, this film feels a lot tamer than those other adaptations.

Having seen every film directed by Vaughn, Kingsman had a little bit more familiarity to it than I would have liked to see. The reason for this is because the various training sequences reminded me a lot of Vaughn’s previous directorial effort, X-Men: First Class. Both films contain youthful individuals of varying backgrounds learning how to work together and develop their tactical skills all the while serving within a covert organization. Also, when a lot of this training is done around an Elizabethan country house, you can’t help but feel like you are experiencing déjà vu.

Regardless of its familiarity, Kingsman is the most entertaining film of early 2015. And in all actuality, the far-fetched plot is where this film succeeds because it has enough self-aware humor to keep things rolling along. This is why both Jackson’s character and performance are so very crucial to the film; Valentine is a caricature with depth that recalls Jackson’s other zany, villainous roles in films such as Unbreakable and Jumper.

Kingsman also features numerous connections to other movies, which is always fun to be on the lookout for. Because the film is neither a sequel nor a reboot, the pop culture references work well with the material. My major complaint with the most recent Bond film, Skyfall, was that there were too many overly obvious nods to the early Bond films, making it feel more like a carbon copy of its initial predecessors than an innovative installment like Casino Royale was. Plus, Skyfall lacks the comic spirit present in Kingsman, which is more welcoming of the borderline meta-references.

Sadly the success of Kingsman is surely to bring about a sequel that will probably build on its flaws of redundancy. While it would be great to see Eggsy as a full-fledged Kingsman further working side-by-side with senior agent Merlin (Mark Strong), this is the kind of film that depends on a memorable villain to make things less conventional.

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