Movies: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Written By: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn from the comic book by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons
20th Century Fox, 2014
R; 129 minutes
3.75 stars (out of 5)


I knew it was based on a comic series, but I haven't read any of them. Still, knowing that much meant the comic book style violence in this movie didn't faze me; the fact that it was overdone to the point of cartoonish and silly seemed, in fact, fitting.

This is a cute movie with violent spikes. It's like YA that wants to be grown up. Firth plays Harry Hart, aka Galahad, an agent for the titular tailors-turned-spies known as Kingsmen. But while Firth may get top billing, but this is Eggsy's story. Played by Egerton, Eggsy is a miscreant with a heart of gold whose father was killed while training to be a Kingsman. So of course Eggsy gets tapped by Harry to "interview" for a vacant seat when one comes up. (Sorry to say Jack Davenport is barely in this movie. What a waste.)

While Eggsy tries out for the team, a secondary plot involves billionaire mogul Valentine (Jackson) whose goal is to help Mother Nature out by culling the world population. He will save the rich and powerful and drive the rest of mankind into homicidal madness with his powerful SIM cards, which he gives away free. Because, hey, free phone from a rich guy! He couldn't possibly have an ulterior motive!

None of what happens in this movie is at all surprising. The whole thing is hugely predictable. And yet, for all that, I enjoyed it. Maybe because I had almost no expectations for the film to begin with. It's a comic book movie of a somewhat different breed than has been shoved down our throats the past few years. These are not flashy superheroes, and they aren't quite James Bond ("this is not that kind of movie," characters utter), but they inhabit the same space as these—the space of action heroes saving the world.

Plenty of the usual undertones exist here: the mentor/father figure for the young man who never had one; the underdog rising in the face of classism, proving that "class" is not so much in breeding as in behavior; the old guard giving way to newer, younger influences, and this being equated with progress.

Actually, class is viewed through another lens in this film. Valentine implants major world leaders, royalty, and generally rich snobs with devices to protect them from the signal his phones will emit. He likens it to Noah's ark. In that story, the "righteous" are saved while the evil drown. Yet Valentine's implants work two ways: They can be made to heat up and literally blow the heads off those who have them. Is this more "mark of the beast"? By the end of the movie [spoilers], instead of culling the lower classes, the world has lost most of its upper crust instead. Whether the world is better or worse for it remains to be seen.

(And, btw, when the implants were set off, why didn't Gazelle die? We were shown she had the scar that suggests she had an implant.)

In any case, Kingsman mostly feels like a movie for teens that pushes those limits on language and violence that teens like to push. Many of the action scenes feel overly long, and as I've mentioned the violence itself ends up cartoonish though still gory in places. (Exploding heads are shown as fireworks, but we're still treated to headless bodies, to a character being sliced in two, and to an extended bloodbath in a church to the tune of "Freebird." This is that kind of movie.)

I give Kingsman a 3.75 because I walked away entertained, which is really all I wanted from the movie, and it delivered. That alone is worth a 3.0, but I give a few extra marks for being somewhat better than I expected. Which isn't saying much, since I had few expectations to begin with, but it's still worth something.

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