Monday, 2 February 2015

Assemble the Kingsmen - Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

The teams behind Kick-Ass and X-Men: Days of Future Past coming together seems like a great idea on paper. Both movies had great action scenes, stories and characters, but unfortunately, their collaboration on this latest action/comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service misses more notes than it hits.

Except I’m totally lying. This movie is great fun. Go see it.

Colin Firth stars as Galahad, a veteran agent of the British secret service organisation known as the Kingsmen. He takes a streetwise youth under his wing, and promises to train him up in order to replace a former agent, but this is only half the story. Samuel L. Jackson plays Valentine, the film’s villain, who has a typical baddie plan to make lots of people die. It’s a tried and true idea from old spy films, and has plenty of self-referential humour to go along with it, but the details of Valentine’s plan puts a modern spin on an old formula, and ensures that Kingsman has a fair balance of genre tropes, and fresh ideas.

A strong cast, also including Mark Strong and Michael Caine, bring life to characters that would otherwise seem generic and boring, and newcomer Taron Egerton stands up against these actors, holding his own with a great performance as the rebellious yet charming Eggsy.

Firth also shines, despite this being an unexpected role for him. Anyone surprised to see him as an action hero wouldn’t be alone, but he fits the role just as perfectly as the tailored suits worn by all members of the Kingsmen. Some fantastically choreographed action scenes show Firth for the versatile actor he really is.

Speaking of the action scenes, parallels can certainly be drawn between the ones you’ll see here and those of the Kick-Ass movies – those involving Hit Girl that is. Fast paced, suitably bloody and choreographed to perfection, managing to stay on that fine line between realistic brawling and over-the-top wire fighting. This falls a little into the latter category towards the end, especially during the battle between Eggsy and Gazelle (Jackson’s razor-legged assistant), but it doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

One scene in particular stands out in my memory. Firth’s character is pitted against a large group of people in a church, and it’s here that we really see some of the best action to come out of a film in the past few years. However for some inexplicable reason, the scene upset me. The brutality, blood and death count aren’t anything new – I was fine with Kick-Ass 2’s final battle – but for some reason I felt a little distressed watching it. Perhaps it had something to do with the reason they were fighting, but I’ll keep that to myself for spoilers sake.

At the other end of the spectrum, the humour is spot on. Most of it is provided by the lispy villain, Jackson playing a psychopath who hates violence and projectile vomits at the sight of blood (yes, it happens), but a lot of it also comes from street-wise commoner-turned-charming secret agent Eggsy. 
There is a large break in the humour around two thirds of the way through, and the film begins to get very dark, but before too long it returns to its light-hearted ways, and had me grinning once again.

With great humour, spectacular action and a story that is both fresh, and a casual nod towards classical spy films, Kingsman puts Colin Firth in one of his most surprisingly well-fitting roles in a long time, and delivers an entertaining popcorn movie that shouldn’t be missed. Think Kick-Ass with spies instead of superheroes – it works.

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