Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

When super spy Harry Hart loses a member of his team in the late 90s, he makes a promise to look out for the young son of the man who died trying to save him. Seventeen years later, Eggsy is a wayward teen with a permanently distraught mother and violent scumbag of a step father. When Eggsy is arrested for stealing a car, Harry Hart seeks out the troubled youth and offers him the chance to become a part of the mysterious and super secret spy agency known as the Kingsman. Seeing what Harry Hart can do, the gadgets he uses, and the class he oozes, Eggsy agrees to sign up to the competitive training regime that could see him taking on billionaire lisping megalomaniac Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson).

It is very clear from watching Kingsman that director Matthew Vaughn is not ready to give up on directing a Bond film yet. Whether he will ever get the gig in the future on the back of this film is very questionable. Kingsman is more like the film we would get if Tarantino ever gets to make a Bond film. It’s self-referential and smart, has a brilliantly foul mouth and is uber-violent from start to finish. Not to mention the fact that it takes an outsider’s perspective on Britain and fills the film with stereotypes of the class system, from the stiff upper lipped suited gents of the Kingsman to the ‘yeah bruv’ yoof of working class ladland.

Early contender for best scene of the year?

Kingsman takes great pleasure in pinching from Bond films, while giving tradition a good shake up. Valentine’s lisp, blade footed hench-woman and mountain lair all feel like they border on homage and parody, whereas other moments indulge in characters talking conventions before shockingly subverting what audiences have come to expect in these films.

To take the Tarantino comparison further, Matthew Vaughn really knows how to revel in the joy of a good splash of ultra-violence. The scene where Firth’s skilled spy is unleashed on a church congregation to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird is one of the most excitingly executed, thrillingly shot and edited and funniest massacres in film history. Nothing in the rest of the film can touch it, but that doesn’t stop Vaughn from trying.

With its cast including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Hamill, it’s a wonder that Taron Egerton even gets a look in as Eggsy. Doubters may think that he is a poor man’s substitute for the swagger and savagery of Jack O’ Connell but Egerton emerges as a winning choice to hold the film together, charming with his sly grin and convincing with his way with an umbrella.

Though there is a worrying undercurrent of upper class superiority and even scepticism about those who campaign  about climate change, if you can cast those niggling fears aside, there surely won’t be a more gleefully violent film than Kingsman this year. 

Watch the trailer:

More recent reviews:
Big Hero 6
Testament of Youth
The Theory of Everything
American Sniper

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