Charming, irreverent, and gratuitous in every sense of the word, Kingsman: The Secret Service runs in the same vein of giddy self-indulgence that made Kick-Ass such a spectacular time at the theater. Unlike Kick-Ass, though, Kingsman slices that vein open and becomes something of a bleeding heart, carrying more emotional heft than one may be led to believe by the film's questionable trailers. Director Matthew Vaughn revels in the film's absurdity, delivering over-the-top action, hilarious violence, and plenty of laughs without the slightest hint of shame or hesitancy. The entire film bursts and pops with frenetic energy, leaping from action scene to action scene with ever-increasing zest while simultaneously slamming viewers with the kind of gut-busting humor and tender character moments that will forever sear Kingsman into their boggled brains.
Based off of a graphic novel by Mark Millar (like Kick-Ass), Kingsman focuses on troubled youth Eggsy (a capable Taron Egerton) and his evolution from reluctant rapscallion to bona-fide hero. Standing in his way is the diabolical Richmond Valentine (a hilarious Samuel L. Jackson), who, along with his alluring assistant Gazelle (a wooden Sofia Boutella) , seek to wipe the world clean from the “virus” that is humanity. Together with Harry Hart (a phenomenal Colin Firth), Roxy (a fantastic Sophie Cookson), and Merlin (a surprising Mark Strong), Eggsy must become more than he thought he could be to overcome his vicious foes.
The film tackles its ludicrous plot with panache, injecting its own playful flavor into a tried-and-true formula that transforms the movie into an entirely new beast. Don't be fooled though: Kingsman prides itself on its refusal to become another hollow action flick. Underneath all of the clandestine antics and high-octane action beats a courageous and wise heart, breathing life and meaning into a film that could have easily fallen victim to the many tropes plaguing spy flicks. It's refreshing that this blood-bath of a film actually has something worthwhile to say besides, “Look! I can be a cool spy movie too!”
Kingsman's most glaring setback lies in its cinematography. Most scenes are shot with the grace and flair that Vaughn inherently brings to the table, but more than a handful of pivotal points failed to truly capture what they were depicting. A key battle sequence in the film's explosive third act leaps, blasts, and shoots around from scene to scene with an almost playful urgency, spending a second or two on one shot before hurriedly hopping to the next one. The film's frantic pacing can be likened to a chattering child whose mouth moves faster than his brain, losing his audience halfway through his impassioned babbling because no one can understand what the hell is going on.
Kingsman: The Secret Service bristles with invention and revitalizes a genre gone stale. It's everything any spy movie fanatic craves in one beautiful, shiny, preposterous package. With no holds barred and no fucks given, the film gleefully hacks, shoots, and punches its way to a fun, satisfying conclusion that will thrill anyone itching for a killer adrenaline rush. Matthew Vaughn's breathless direction occasionally proves to be exhausting, but his excited delivery and impressive character moments save more than a few scenes from becoming completely unwatchable (not in the sense that the audience doesn't want to, but in the sense that the speed of the human eye blows big time compared to Vaughn's preferred time spent on shots).
At the end of the day, though, Vaughn impossibly blurs the line between tribute and parody, respectfully adhering to the few unwritten rules of the genre (must have good-looking dudes with good-looking women save the world dressed for a cocktail party, and an over-top-villain with the obligatory, convoluted plan to kill millions of people) while creating some refreshing, vibrant, and fun that doesn't once worry about its own missteps. And as for the inevitable onslaught of criticisms against most of the film's racy dialogue, I echo Richmond Valentine when I say,“Do I look like I give a fuck?”