Kingsman: The Secret Service has an attitude problem: it thinks it is the best and most original spy movie available to the known world. Throughout the film, the dialogue is sharp to express out loud the flaws and shortcomings of the genre’s most notable entries (James Bond, Jason Bourne, etc.) and then adds salt to the injury by proclaiming “it’s not that kind of movie.” Here’s the kicker, though: it’s almost right.
Just know that Kingsman: The Secret Service is an exciting and engaging film from top to bottom, even if the message isn’t that novel. It is a fast-paced story well-blended with strong characters and the right actors to support them. Colin Firth actually does well outside of romantic comedies and does an extraordinary job as gentleman spy Galahad (codename, yeah). He trains Eggsy, played by newcomer Taron Egerton, as the latter joins the group in order to replace the spy codenmed Lancelot (a position his own father once held). Samuel L. Jackson, of course, feels right at home as the cruel villain Valentine who just wants to make the world a “better place” with “free phone, free internet, for everyone, everywhere.” Too good to be true, really. And a special shout-out to Mark Strong who plays the group’s Merlin.
Like I said, this film strives to break the mold (and the fourth wall, to boot) of the pre-existing spy film model. The best thing going for it is the fact fact that it seems more rooted in reality – not regarding all the super-cool spy equipment, clothes, and shoes, but in its dealing with human emotions. The characters actually have something at stake and, more often than not, lose it. But not everything is really that different. The protagonist is new to the spy game but was only invited to play because of an already-present set of skills. The bad guy is the quintessential evil genius who, although disguising his work as an engine for the common good, is really trying to take over the world. And in the end, after he has defeated the bad guy, sex is still the reward for the protagonist. Doesn’t that all sound familiar? I thought so.
Not that surprising is this film’s R rating for “sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content.” Yes, this film is violent, and gratuitously so: Valentine’s plan for world domination involves manipulating people’s aggression so much so that they kill each other off; this unfortunately plays itself out in a scene at a church service that should make believers cringe and even laugh for the wrong reasons (I know I did). Also, the film has just about as many F-bombs as it does real bombs; maybe it’s just a part of trying to keep up with the times and/or wanting to seem edgy and cool, I don’t know, but it’s definitely not needed to progress the story. Finally, like I said, sex is the reward, and while the film doesn’t go “all the way”, we get the implication that Eggsy does. Ladies and gents, bring your filters for this one.
Think of Kingsman: The Secret Service as James Bond’s cheeky, posh Brit cousin. Sure, it may be a little goofy and unkempt at times, even too foul-mouthed at times. But if you can manage to look past the rugged exterior, you’ll see a film that wants the best for its audiences and will do what it takes to keep you on the edge of your seat. Talks have already started for a Kingsman 2, and I gotta tell ya: I wouldn’t be too disappointed in it. The only thing I would suggest that if you’re going to retry to break that spy-movie mold, I’d do it by not having the crux of the story one of self-actualization. After all, nobody wants a hero who’s only looking out for himself.