Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy action thriller that, to a certain extent, pays homage to James Bond while, at the same time, attempts to be a bit original. Imagine if you took a James Bond movie and stripped it of the iconic spy's taste in fine things, clever one-liners, womanizing, and usual supporting characters at MI6, then add an extra dose of bloody action and a tincture of humor. That's what Kingsman is: a movie that is like a Bond movie but also not like a Bond movie. There are a few moments in Kingsman where a character's lines of dialogue are clearly a sign that the movie is trying not to be a Bond movie. And yet, there are elements that undoubtedly come from the world of 007.
Let's start with the protagonist who is Bond-like. Colin Firth is a gentleman spy named Harry Hart, whose code name is Galahad. He is a member of the Kingsmen, a very secretive and exclusive British intelligence agency that operates independently and not as a government-based organization. The mission of the Kingsmen is to bring good to the world, like noble knights. In fact, the members of the Kingsmen all have code names referring to the Knights of the Round Table, with the leader, played by Michael Caine, named Arthur. As the movie opens, the agent named Lancelot is dead and needs to be replaced.
This is where the other non-Bond-like protagonist comes in. Taron Egerton plays a young street kid named Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, who lives in a low-income flat with his family. He's the kind of person who doesn't hesitate to talk dirty, get into fights, do drugs, and steal cars. Yet, as shown in the movie's prologue, he is destined to be a member of the Kingmen. But he has to prove himself. He, along with several other young men and women, must undergo extreme life-threatening physical tests. Whoever passes them without getting killed or disqualified from the competition becomes Lancelot's replacement.
As all of this is happening, the world is turning its attention to a billionaire philanthropist: Internet and telecommunications mogul Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He is so rich and generous that he is willing to provide universal SIM cards (compatible with any smartphone, tablet computer, or other device) to everyone in the world for free. No kidding. But the Kingsmen suspect that something is not right with this man. He may seem pleasant on the outside, but inside his lair, he is keeping a Swedish princess imprisoned and has some really big scheme in the works. He also has a deadly henchwoman in the form of Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella, who has really deadly prosthetic legs.
The first two-thirds of this movie focus more on story than action. Sure, there are entertaining scenes that involve bar fighting and skydiving, but otherwise, they're secondary elements. With this kind of setup, you might lose a bit of patience. But just wait until the last third of the movie. This is where you got a couple of good surprises and twists, not to mention a lot more action. Speaking of the action, it's the kind that is exciting and funny at the same time. This is best illustrated by a fight sequence late in the movie in which Colin Firth as Hart is taking on a whole crowd of people and killing them in all sorts of gruesome ways, accompanied by slow motion, fast motion, and a rocking soundtrack.
So if you like James Bond, you'll like Kingsman. Interestingly, if you want a spy action movie that is not too much like James Bond, you'll like Kingsman as well. The movie has something for every kind of spy movie fan. Heck, as a James Bond fan, I might even go as far as to say that Kingsman is a good alternative to the Bond movies that I can watch while waiting for the next Bond movie, assuming that this movie will get at least one sequel. I can't see why not. Kingsman: The Secret Service is such a fun spy action romp that people will surely be craving for more.
Anthony's Rating: 8/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/K/Kingsman_The_Secret_Service.htm)