Director Matthew Vaughn brings us a jet-fueled tribute to the classic Bond films with this adaptation of Mark Millar’s and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel The Secret Service and once again Vaughn greatly improves on the source material.
I love the Daniel Craig Bond movies but it was the Connery/Moore Bond films that I grew up on so I’ll always have a soft spot for supervillains with world conquest issues, lethal henchmen and mountain strongholds all which this movie ticks off like a fan boy’s wet dream. The story is pretty much a young adult version of those earlier Bond films where we have the standard megalomaniac super villain who the hero must stop to save the world; in the case of Kingsman: The Secret Service we have a technology tycoon named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who wants to save the Earth by wiping out the bulk of its population, but unlike Hugo Drax’s plan in Moonraker Valentine’s is vastly more violent and even less “altruistic” as his chosen survivors are decidedly not picked for perfect breeding stock.
Enter the Kingsman a secret intelligence agency set up to work outside of all world governments thus avoiding the corruption of local politics. Chief among these agents is Harry Hart (Colin Firth) codenamed Lancelot who dresses sharply in a Savile Row suit and can take a room full of thugs down without breaking a sweat. Now seventeen years ago on a mission an agent died protecting his fellow Kingsman and Harry personally delivered the medal of valor to the widow and her little boy saying that if ever they need a favor just call the number on the back of the medal.
The little boy grows up to be Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who doesn’t get along with his mother’s abusive boyfriend or his gang of toughs. When Eggsy’s rough and tumble nature lands him in jail he uses his one phone call to call the number on the medal. Harry shows up and explains to Eggsy about his father, the Kingsman and his possible future with the organization. Playing Junior James Bond seems better than being beaten up daily so he agrees to the training.
Structurally speaking there isn’t much of anything original going on in this movie; you get the standard training clichés, the asshat fellow recruits that give him a hard time, the tough female recruit that is our hero’s sole friend, and the tough but likable taskmaster (Mark Strong). So basically you are really getting two films in one; first you have your James Bond tribute with a world conquering supervillain and then you have your young adult action adventure film in the vein of The Hunger Games and Divergent.
The action is quite stylish and over the top and both Colin Firth and Taron Egerton give top notch performances as super spies but for me the standout performances are all on the villains side as Samuel L. Jackson’s villain is a bizarre lisping character who is adverse to watching violence and simply put too fun to not love. He’s what you’d expect if his character from The Spirit had a more eccentric twin brother.
And what supervillain would be without a good henchman or in this case a henchwoman. This role is marvellously filled by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) a double amputee whose lower legs have become lethal weapons that can cut through steel as well as heroes. She easily outclasses the likes of Jaws and Oddjob by proving that the female really is more deadly than the male.
The only criticism I have for the film is that training sequences with Eggsy proving his metal against fellow recruits could have been greatly reduced. All his fellow recruits were just bland two dimensional characters that offered nothing to the story and when your film is over two hours long you need to cut that crap out. And if you are in a cutting frame of mind maybe they could have done some trimming during the big action finale as it did seem to go on a bit long, but really that is all in retrospect because as I was watching it I was having too much of blast to care.
Is this the greatest action spy thriller out there? Of course not, but it was incredibly fun as it paid loving homage to the films that came before and it’s clear that Matthew Vaughn has great affection for the genre. So for fun escapist entertainment I can highly recommend Kingsman: The Secret Service. It will at least hold us over until Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out.