A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
I don’t know how many times I’ve wished for an R-rated James Bond movie. Imagine the possibilities: Bond could shoot someone in the face and you could actually see it as it’s happening: the sex scenes could be more suggestive and the language could be, how should I put it, more colorful? Now, before I go on, more violence, sex and language does not necessarily make a better movie, on the contrary, sometimes, these very elements can take away from the actual story and overshadow everything else in the movie and not in a good way. But on the other hand, as is the case with “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” when these aspects are executed successfully by a very capable director like Matthew Vaughn, who understands the complexities of action but also of drama, then you have a movie that is just perfect.
Colin Firth plays Harry Hart, a British spy who is undercover in the middle east with a group of fellow agents. When a botched interrogation takes the life of one of his closest friends, he visits his wife Michelle (Samantha Womack) and young son Eggsy, to give them a bravery medal and informs them if they ever need help, to call a special number on the back of the medal. We flash forward 17 years and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is unemployed and frequently gets into trouble with the law. After joyriding one night, he is arrested and when given the opportunity to make his one phone call, he retrieves his father’s medal from around his neck and calls the number. Shortly thereafter, he is released, no more questions asked.
Harry is waiting for him and gives him the opportunity to join the Kingsman, a super-secret spy organization that his father was a part of and with nothing else going on in his life, he agrees. The movie excels when Harry and Eggsy are onscreen together, a sort of father-son relationship, Harry feeling guilty for Eggsy’s father’s death and seeing potential in him, constantly encourages him to do his best and they gradually come to respect each other. One of the best parts in the film is the training section where Eggsy and several other young hopefuls, are given multiple missions, some life threatening where only one will be selected as a Kingsman. Watching Eggsy compete against snobby and pompous, Oxford-trained narcissists, and putting them in their place, is pure joy.
Samual L. Jackson plays the movie’s villain, Valentine who just happens to have a henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), a double leg amputee with deadly, razor-sharp prosthetic legs and he plays his bad guy role with relish, hamming it up perfectly but not overly so and brings to mind previous Bond villains such as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (“You Only Live Twice”), Max Zorin (“A View to a Kill”) and Elliot Carver (“Tomorrow Never Dies”), bad guys who were more colorful and ostentatious than some of the darker Bond villains, like Auric Goldfinger (“Goldfinger”), Franz Sanchez (“License to Kill”) and Le Chiffre (“Casino Royale”). Jackson is believable in his role, complete with farcical lisp and at times, does present a few moments of menace but he’s mostly unabashed and immodest.
Mark Hamill pops up in a brief supporting role but was met with cheers and applause from the audience I attended this screening with. Mark Strong and Michael Caine turn up as fellow Kingsman agents and play their roles with great charisma and humor. Director Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class” and “Kick-As”) is not afraid to show violence that is, at times, so over-the-top it’s outrageous but at the same time, we see Eggsy, the young man who had no father figure growing up, transform from a reckless, wise-cracking street thug, into a well-groomed, refined young man whose father would be proud. With most movies, there are areas that can stick out like a sore thumb, places for you to critique and scrutinize but here, I couldn’t find any and I had an absolute blast.
The movie pays great homage to James Bond, from the film’s title to the occasional orchestral sting, reminiscent of John Barry’s wonderful score and he’s even mentioned several times throughout, the producers tipping their hats to the franchise that they are emulating but Colin Firth plays his role flawlessly, exaggertaing the upper-class English male persona but not to the point of being cavalier or condescending, rather, his Harry Hart is more refined and cultivated than most and deadly when he has to be. Mr. Firth would have made an admirable Bond but this is a new movie that I really hope takes off because with the story, characters and setting herein, the producers could have a new franchise on their hands with limitless ideas. Very highly recommended.
In theaters now
For more info about James visit his website at www.irishfilmcritic.com