Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and Kingsman: The Secret Service. What's common between all these films? They're all rated at between 7 and 8 on IMDB. They're also consistently rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with scores ranging from 74% to 87%. Lastly, they all come from the same director - Matthew Vaughn.
There's not a lot of directors in the industry who can boast of a similar track record. It'll be really interesting to see if Mr. Vaughn can actually maintain this streak as he adds projects to his filmography. What's even more impressive is that these films vary in genre; while they have some underlying similarities, they have their fair share of differences too. Not a lot of people know Matthew Vaughn's name. Its not a name that adds credibility on a poster or in a trailer, but if he continues on the path he's on, I feel that might change very soon. Let's take a look at his work from the beginning:
1) Layer Cake (2004)
Layer Cake is a solid crime thriller that's highly entertaining, well acted, engaging and unpredictable. It's also stylishly shot and very well edited. It stars a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig as a clean drug dealer who's in complete control of his life and aspires to retire... but well of course, it isn't that easy. He gets sucked back into the world he's trying to leave, getting involved in multiple games in which he is but a mere pawn. The film moves at a breakneck pace keeping you wondering if he'll ever get out of the mess he's in. There's good twists that are genuinely surprising. You can't help but smile when the now James Bond at one point in the movie says "I hate guns and violence". You also catch a glimpse of Tom Hardy before he was famous and Michael Gambon before his Dumbledore days.
2) Stardust (2007)
This, in my opinion is the most criminally underrated Matthew Vaughn movie. Despite solid reviews and a 7.7 on IMDB proving that those who watched this movie did like it, it fell flat at the box office and simply hasn't been seen by a lot of people. The film is a classic adventure tale with magical kingdoms and Kings and witches. Its fantasy at its very best since the characters still feel real and the film never takes itself too seriously. There's loads of humor to be appreciated and the film puts its own unique and often dark spin on traditional fairytale plot points. It effortlessly blends action, adventure and comedy into an incredibly enjoyable package. The entire cast is great and seem to be having fun, and Robert De Niro gives us one of the most hilarious and unbelievable performances of his career. I remember watching this film in the cinema when I was 12 and loving it, and it held up just as well on a second viewing last weekend.
3) Kick-Ass (2010)
After two great movies that fell under the radar and didn't garner much attention, this was arguably Matthew Vaughn's breakout film. If in Stardust, he played around with and changed some ingredients of typical fantasy fare, with Kick-Ass he went all out and gave us the superhero film we never knew could exist. This common boy aspiring to be a superhero film was slick, smartly written and brought to life by a cast who nailed their parts - Kick-Ass is a wild ride and once again thrilled both audiences and critics alike. It also gave us Chloe Grace-Moretz, who is among the finer younger actresses in the industry today and looks to have a promising future ahead of her. Additionally, it marked one of last times we loved Nicholas Cage.
4) X-Men: First Class (2011)
This remains my very favourite X-Men film, perhaps only matched by the most recent Days of Future Past. With X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the franchise's goodwill was tarnished, and while those movies enjoyed healthy box office runs, they are to this date regarded the weakest in the franchise. Matthew Vaughn rescued this franchise with a convincing tale of how the X-Men were formed. With a fresh young cast (most of whom are now Hollywood A-Listers), and a formidable villain played expertly by Kevin Bacon, X-Men: First Class was thrilling, fun and smart film which by many at the time was considered the best comic book film since The Dark Knight. While it didn't absolutely kill it at the box office, it did something more crucial. It got the franchise its goodwill back, which undoubtedly contributed to the astounding success of Day's of Future Past last year.
5) Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
After famously turning down X-Men: DOFP to work on this instead, Matthew Vaughn once again delivered a knock-out film that you'll find on almost every "best of 2015 so far" list. Once again, like he did what Stardust and Kick-Ass, he took a popular genre and turned many of its conventional plot points on their head to deliver a unique, thrilling and immensely enjoyable film. Kingsman: The Secret Service struck the perfect balance between parodying traditional spy films while paying tribute to them and was refreshingly self aware. Colin Firth gave one of his more memorable recent performances and Samuel L. Jackson was a classic villain in all the right ways. The action was simply great with plenty of well choreographed sequences. In a year featuring The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Spectre and Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation, Kingsman along with the also very good Spy work as perfect counter-programming in the genre.
While he's teased multiple projects, there is no official word on what Matthew Vaughn intends to do next and I for one, can't wait. He definitely deserves more appreciation for the consistency of his great work and I hope he continues the winning streak that few in the industry can boast of.
What do you think, have you enjoyed his movies as much as I have? Do you think he's a good director not appreciated enough or do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below!