REVIEW: Kingsman: The Secret Service

23 03 2015

Earlier in 2015, Matthew Vaughn hit a nerve with many movie fans when he took a giant crap on the face of reigning blockbuster king Christopher Nolan.  “People want fun and escapism at the moment,” said Vaughn in an interview, “I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it.”

I take issue with his statement for a number of reasons.  First of all, it just reeks of bitterness over Nolan’s success; the total worldwide gross of Vaughn’s combined filmography does not even come close to equaling the haul of “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Second, it implies that serious action films are shoving lighter fare out of the market on both the level of the corporation and the consumer.

For me, I tend to prefer Nolan’s films because they so boldly test the boundaries of what our entertainment can be.  But at the end of the day, I do not want to live in a world where I cannot kick back and enjoy a blissfully funny, irreverent, and exciting movie like Matthew Vaughn’s own “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”  There will always be a place for well-crafted entertainment that knows the role it wants to play and fulfills its duties with gusto.

Vaughn’s film, co-written with his frequent collaborator Jane Goldman, strikes a rarely found balance between spy movie classicism (like a Bond flick) and outright parody (a la “Austin Powers”).  They find the right times to shift gears, and the result is an experience that plays like all the fun of two movies for the price of one.  Overall, I found myself reminded of the hero’s quest of Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars” hybridized with “Agent Cody Banks” (throwback – bet you haven’t thought about that movie in a while).

Kingsman

Vaughn also sends up British gentility throughout the film with a gleeful joy.  The spy agency in “Kingsman” operates under the guise of Saville Row-style tailor shop run by Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, a gent both dapper and totally lethal.  In the film’s prologue, one of his fellow agents goes down, so Harry has to find a replacement agent.  He rounds up the usual suspects from Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge, for those not familiar with the British slang) … and Taron Egerton’s Eggsy, a character ripped from an English kitchen sink social realist drama.

The clash of two very different cultures does provide a little something for the mind to chew on as Eggsy hangs around much longer than anyone expected in the recruitment process.  As opposed to something like a Marvel or “Fast and Furious” movie, there is actual plot development to maintain engagement between giant action set pieces.  Vaughn also does not suspend the story to relish in mayhem during these well-choreographed sequences, either.

Further to his credit, Vaughn also moves Samuel L. Jackson from harmless self-awareness to outright self-mockery in “Kingsman.”  Jackson stars as Valentine, the villain of the piece, because apparently an action movie cannot be made without his participation in this day and age.  His every line is memorable and hilarious, not because his dialogue is laced with profanity or oddly-worded insults.  Jackson sends up his entire persona, speaking in a lisp and subverting the hyper-masculine identity he has built from “Pulp Fiction” to “The Avengers.”  He, just like the rest of the movie, is at his silliest – but also at his most purposeful.  B+3stars

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