Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)    3 Stars
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)


Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: A spy organisation 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.




Matthew Vaughn, the director of X-Men: First Class and the driving force behind the Kick-Ass movies, looks once more to the world of comic books for inspiration with Kingsman: The Secret Service, a fast, entertaining parody of 60s spy movies. It’s based on a comic book character created by Mark Millar, who was also co-writer of the Kick Ass comic books, and takes place in a kind of alternate reality Britain in which a covert spy organisation run along the lines of King Arthur’s Round Table operates from deep beneath a gentleman’s tailor shop in London.

Every now and then, a Kingsman agent is killed in the line of duty, and it’s up to each of the remaining agents to propose and mentor a replacement for the fallen agent. Such candidates are usually plucked from the ranks of the upper class, but agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth –Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Gambit) recruits Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton), a chavvy youth drifting into a life of crime whose father’s death Hart was responsible for. As only one candidate can be successful, they must all undergo a rigorously competitive training regime until only one remains.

Meanwhile, as the candidates are undergoing this punishing recruitment process, Hart investigates the disappearance of an increasing number of high-profile politicians, scientists and celebrities. His enquiries lead him to suspect billionaire technical guru Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction, The 51st State), who is in the process of issuing free SIM cards to every member of the public as part of his plan to save the planet.

Although the storyline is far removed from that of Kick Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service shares the same energetic, freewheeling style of the earlier movie. It’s a lot of fun, even though it seems a little unsure of exactly what type of audience it’s aiming for, and shows both reverence and irreverence for the long-lost Gentleman Spy genre of the 1960s. A highly impressive sequence in which a congregation at a church promoting racial hatred is suddenly transformed into a frenzied mob that turns upon itself with violent intensity is a thrilling, visceral delight in one respect, but also feels out of place, and this uneven tone is perhaps the only real complaint one can make about the film.

The cast is first rate, boasting not only impressive young talent, but a host of established names such as Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Geoff Bell. In Colin Firth, it finds the kind of suave, self-contained charmer who is perhaps more reminiscent of Steed from The Avengers than super-spy James Bond, and in Samuel L. Jackson (that’s right: for once the Brit is the hero and the American’s the villain!) a comically squeamish lisping bad guy. Although the high-tech guru who’s also a criminal mastermind has recently become something of a cliché, it’s refreshing to find one who’s acting out of a philanthropic motive – no matter how misguided and insane – rather than pure greed or a desire for power. In fact, for most of the film, Valentine’s quite a nice chap – he’s just a little confused about where his responsibility for the wellbeing of the planet ends.

(Reviewed 4th September 2015)

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