Matthew Vaughn has a great track record for turning comics into fun, kinetic action movies with Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class and he keeps up that track record for Kingsman: The Secret Service, an insanely fun spy movie that simultaneously celebrates and blows up the usual tropes of the genre.
The Kingsman are a secret, independent group of espionage agents who are basically the modern day equivalent of the Knights of the Round Table, with Colin Firth as Galahad, Michael Caine as Arthur and Mark Strong as Merlin. When Kingsman agent Lancelot is killed investigating the disappearance of a climate change scientist, Galahad aka Harry puts up the son of a former Kingsman, Gary “Eggsy” Urwin (Taron Egerton), as his choice for the group’s intense training program as a possible replacement. While Eggsy trains, the Kingsman are led to suspect that philanthropic billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) is plotting something nefarious. The main villain plot is classic, Bond style megamaniacal, world domination with tons of great twists as it’s revealed what is actually going on but it also stays in tone with the movie’s meta take on the spy genre, like Samuel L Jackson’s abhorrence of violence and blood despite the ultimate goal of his plot. The training sequences are lots of fun as well, something Vaughn brought over from First Class but I do feel like it could have cut down a bit to get to “stopping the world domination plot” portion of the movie a little sooner. The movie actually feels like a mashup of most of Vaughn’s movies up to this point, with the Britishness of Layer Cake, the insane action and violence of Kick Ass and the fun and humor of First Class.
The cast of Kingsman is pretty much great across the board, with newcomer Taron Egerton easily carrying the movie with a cocky charm that is a great compliment to Colin Firth’s stiff, proper gentlemen spy. Samuel L Jackson’s choice of lisping is a little strange but he seems to be having tons of fun as a kind of Steve Jobsesque billionaire tech mogul and his assistant, Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella, is a brilliant take on a classic Bond style henchman, her quirk being a pair of razor sharp prosthetic legs that she uses multiple times in the movie in some incredibly choreographed fight scenes. It’s also fun to see Mark Strong in a not villainous role, instead playing the Kingsman equivalent of Q. It doesn’t take away from the movie in the slightest but I think it would have been fun and perfectly in line with the meta style of the movie to have at least one Bond pop up, Daniel Craig worked with Vaughn on Layer Cake but any of the former Bonds would have made a perfect cameo as a fellow Kingsman agent. Oh, well.
If you were a fan of the action in Kick Ass, Kingsman definitely follows that movie’s lead, as the action sequences are all stupendously choregraphed, gloriously violent and usually paired with some sort of, slightly inappropriate, musical choice. The scene that uses “Free Bird” is easily one of the highlights of the movie. In classic Bond style as well, there’s tons of fun gadgets in the Kingsman’s arsenal, like umbrella guns, tranquilizer watches, knife shoes and cigerette lighter hand grenades, all of which are highlighted in at least one of the movie’s action sequences. Nothing in this movie is even remotely realistic but it’s insanely fun, and that’s what really matters.
If you’re a fan of the spy genre, Kingsman celebrates the best parts of movies like Bond while ramping up the action to over the top levels, it’s the first great action movie of the year.