The scenario of a seemingly ordinary person being summoned to find his true potential as a hero has been done many times. Alex Rider, Agent Cody Banks, Spy Kids, Men in Black, Ender's Game, and recently Seventh Son are just a few films with plots like this. On paper, one could simply write off Kingsman as "been-there-done-that." However, on the big screen, Kingsman succeeds by giving audiences a refreshing cinematic experience.
Kingsman centers around a young man named Eggsy. Years after the death of his secret-agent father, Eggsy is nominated by skilled secret agent Harry Hart to join an elite group of spies known as the Kingsman (which his father was a member of). Eggsy must vie with other nominees for the position his father once held and eventually go up against the villainous Richmond Valentine and his evil schemes to take over the world.
Kingsman could have been forgettable and cliched, but its inventive execution gives it bite. Kingsman: The Secret Service is like honey whiskey; it's sweet and fun, but packs quite a punch. One of the best things about Kingsman is the characters. The characters, for example, have their own special quirks and personalities to make them memorable.
The main character, Eggsy (played by Taron Egerton), is a British street thug with a heart of gold. Though he is smart and has military training, he lives unemployed in section 8 housing, living on welfare with his mother. After the death of her husband, Eggsy's mother does not want him to suffer the same fate. As a result, he feels like he has to adapt to a low-class street life of drugs and petty thefts just to get by. Meanwhile, his abusive stepfather poses a looming threat to his mother's well being.
His backstory sounds too dark for a fun movie on paper, but it made Eggsy's character deeper and more worth rooting for. Moreover, it is shown in just enough detail as to not make the film too jarringly depressing. Throughout the film, it was quite satisfying to see him learn to develop into a Kingsman. It is certainly a step up from the usual cliche of a privileged high school student becoming a hero (Agent Cody Banks, Dragonball: Evolution).
Other characters include Harry Hart, a suave, well-mannered badass that mentors Eggsy. His sleek, witty persona is reminiscent of Sean Connery in the classic Bond films. He is the kind of guy that can wear a suit and tie and say "manners maketh man" before effortlessly subduing a group of thugs in a fight. Colin Firth proves once again that he is an Oscar-worthy actor, giving Harry a thoughtful, wise performance that makes him a joy to watch. He gives the already intelligent dialogue an extra amount of believability. To those who don't think older men can't play badasses, I totally beg to differ.
As for Richmond Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson)...wow...I don't think I've seen a more memorable villain on screen in recent years. Valentine is a general parody of the over-the-top nature of Bond villains like Goldfinger and Dr. No, but he is still a unique character. Just imagine if you combined Mike Tyson, Jim Carrey and Steve Jobs in a blender. You'd get exactly as weird and awesome of a villain as you think you would.
Jackson is a riot, playing a rich technology mogul who hates violence but still plots to take over the world by killing those outside of his inner circle. He talks with a Tyson-like lisp and treats his enemies to dinners with Big Macs and fries. Valentine also comes close to breaking the fourth wall at some points. In one scene, Valentine tells a character that he won't reveal his whole evil scheme and just kills him at point-blank range. He is funny, but he is so evil that you still want the good guys to win at the end. In some ways, he's like Scar from The Lion King or Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He even comes with a henchman named Gazelle: a voluptuous woman with swords for legs reminiscent of outlandish Bond henchmen like Oddjob and Jaws.
In many ways, Valentine is the perfect foe for Eggsy to go up against. Eggsy, the unfortunate kid living on welfare, is going up against a wealthy man who wants to kill everybody except his rich buddies. In my opinion, this is an excellent contrast, and makes you want to see Eggsy rise from the ashes of poverty to take down one of the World's most powerful and dangerous men.
Back on the subject of Bond homages, the gadgets and set pieces are, in the words of JeremyJahns: AWESOMETACULAR. There's lighter hand grenades, umbrellas that can stun/kill, electrocuting rings, and excellently choreographed fights that forego the choppy PG-13 editing for harcode, in-your-face action. The fight scenes are jam-packed with acrobatic choreography, parkour and swashbuckling (thanks to Gazelle's sword legs).
As for the level of violence, some may find it to be too strong, but I thought it was stylish and sleek enough to fit with the movie's entertaining tone. I truthfully couldn't help but chuckle at the overblown severed hands and headshots in the context of the film's tone.
Now, for me, this movie wasn't without it's drawbacks. Minor as they were, they were still worth noting. For instance, early in the film Eggsy must compete with other nominees for the spot at being a kingsman. Now, this plot point played out fine, and resulted in quite a few suspenseful scenes that tested the limits of the Kingsman nominees. However, I couldn't help but notice that one of the nominees named Charlie was the typical bully character that I've seen in so many other movies.
The rest of the movie adds flavor to its cliches (the mentor and the outspoken young hero) and molds them into worthy characters. Charlie, however, is just the typical jerk who's meant to be the jerk just so he can get his comeuppance. Unlike more memorable bully characters like Bozo from Ender's Game, Charlie doesn't serve that big of a function in the movie, and the character feels like a bit of an after thought.
I didn't really care for the character Roxy either. She wasn't unlikable in any way, and Sophie Cookson did a fine job, but her character also felt like an afterthought. She wasn't really fleshed out, and doesn't really do anything important until the end of the movie. Still though, her character was tolerable enough to watch.
Overall, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an excellent movie that graces February 2015 with its presence. I suggest seeing it in theaters ASAP, but don't worry if you can't; you can still have a great screening party when it comes out on DVD. I suggest breaking out the whiskey and yorkshire pudding, getting your friends together and having a grand ole time watching it. Ole' Bond would be proud.