Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

On His Kingman's Secret Service
There's a self-referential streak in Kingsman: The Secret Service surrounding the tone of spy movies in the past and present that starts with Harry Hart (Colin Firth) feeling current spy movies are too serious for his taste. It's an interesting gag, mainly because Kingsman feels like it's combination of the older James Bond films (which director Matthew Vaughn heavily hearkened in his last movie X-Men: First Class) and the more entries in the spy genre. The over-the-top style and more light hearted tone found in earlier spy films is found in spades, as is the sleek modern action of more recent adventures starring the likes of Jason Bourne.

It's a surprisingly effective combo, made all the better by the ability of the feature (which is directed by Matthew Maughn, who also wrote the screenplay with Jane Goldman) to, for the most part, keep engaging characters at the focus of the film. Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) is a good example of this quality, with his rebellious streak and attitude at the start of the movie being the kind of thing that could be an immediate turn-off for any given audience member. But the movie smartly scatters little moments that make Eggsy more endearing; for instance, he takes care of his baby sister and deliberately avoids hitting an animal during a high-speed police chase.

Obviously, these are pretty basic acts of human decency, but they do a solid job of showing that he's an empathetic human being underneath his more rascally tendencies. That helps make it more reasonable whenever Harry decides to show up and recruit Eggsy to be a potential candidate to become a member of the Kingsman, a group of elite spies. The other candidates Eggsy competes against aren't given much screentime besides the stereotypical "douche" of the group , Charlie, and Roxy (Sophie Cookson), an odd occurrence due to how memorable and stylized pretty much every other character in the film is.

No seriously, this movies devotion to just adding on craziness after craziness in it's story is kind of awesome, especially when it comes to the villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). He's a lisping billionaire who serves McDonalds, hates blood and wants to eradicate the majority of the human race. That's a sentence I never thought I'd type in my career as film critic, but thankfully, the character works as an effective presence of menace in the film as well as en example of the stories tendency to go balls-to-the-wall in it's devotion to absurdity.

The story of Kingsman remains usually tight and involving, sans a really poorly executed sequence that tries to create emotional resonance for Harry's career as a spy. It's not that you couldn't do an emotional scene for the character, it's just that the crux of the idea behind is, to be frank, presented in a terrible fashion that makes it more idiotic than poignant. Luckily, that particular scene is followed up by one of the movies best sequences, which involves tons of violence in a Westboro Baptist-esque Church. It's a sight to behold, especially since the film eschews gimmicks like shaky-cam in order to capture all the carnage the scene has to offer, an endeavor that;s only bolstered by the films smart decision to go for an R-rating. No cheap editing tricks down to get a PG-13 rating to be found here; just clear and well-executed scenes of combat.

Truth be told, I had a ton of fun at Kingsman: The Secret Service, a film that earns my respect and admiration alone for managing to toss in classical music and colorful explosions in a manner that needs to be seen to be believed. I wish some characters and scenes were better constructed, and frankly, the films final moment (like, literally, the last minute or so of the movie) seems like something Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book this film is based on) came up with in when he realized the film hadn't treated women in a degrading manner during the entire movie. Still, those qualms don't undo the numerous spots of fun and quality that can be found throughout this adventure. No matter what era or tone of spy movies you prefer, I have a feeling you'll get a kick out of Kingsman: The Secret Service.  

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