Friday, February 27, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service isn't the first time director Matthew Vaughn has signed on to bring a Mark Millar comic to the big screen. Like Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service centers on the life of a young punk who enters a world of violence, ridiculous adventures, and even more ridiculous villains. This time, however, the subject of spies rather than comic book heroes is both celebrated and lampooned.

Based on Millar's comic The Secret Service, Taron Egerton stars as a working class kid from a bad neighborhood raised by a single mother after his father died in mysterious circumstances working for a secret organization of spies (and tailors?) known as Kingsman. Recruited by the same agent (Colin Firth) who recruited his father, Egsy spends most of the film proving himself against other candidates (Sophie Cookson, Edward Holcroft, Nicholas Banks, Tom Prior, Fiona Hampton) working to take the place of the latest Kingsman (Jack Davenport) who died investigating a link between a kidnapped professor (Mark Hamill) and an eccentric billionaire known as Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who has some extreme ideas about lowering the population of the Earth.

Given the secret organization, training sequences, and body count, Kingsman: The Secret Service feels more like Wanted than Kick-Ass. Like Wanted this film has memorable action sequences and questionable story elements which leave the viewer with a brutal but dumb action movie tonally geared more towards teenagers than adults. Think of it as If Looks Could Kill mixed with John Wick. It's also more than a little reminiscent of the legendary trainwreck known as Hudson Hawk with the ridiculous plans of its villain and odd-named supporting characters from everything from the Arthurian codenames to henchmen named Poodle, Rottweiler, and Gazelle.

Egsy himself, aside from being a good-hearted punk (whose wardrobe is often as horrifically bad as his nickname), is rather bland allowing the character to be stand-in for the audience in this wish fulfillment fantasy. Cookson's Roxy is actually a more interesting character who sadly doesn't get nearly as much screentime. Where Wanted's core message was about power corrupting absolutely, Kingsman is more basic in the idea of the little guy finally getting his big chance to prove he's as good, or better, than everyone else. Like the genre it lampoons Egsy learns to fight and kill with unbelievable skill by the time the film's climax rolls around (even if that part of his training was barely covered in the various scenes and montages at the Kingsman training facility).

Rounding out the cast are Sofia Boutella as a killer with blades on her feet as the stand-in for your basic Bond bad girl and henchman mashed-up together, Michael Caine as the head of Kingsman, and Mark Strong as the organization's Q who gets into the field when Valentine's plan leaves the private spy organization (of tailors?) decimated.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is dumb fun of impressive action sequences, including murderous battles within a church and within the villain's secret layer, mixed with adolescent humor (some of which finds its mark and some badly misses the mark). While not being the kind of movie I would likely seek out for a second viewing, if I found it on cable I might stop to watch a few moments (mostly for the action sequences).

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