Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service
By Jason Barney
February 19, 2015
Fifty Shades of Grey, American Sniper, and SpongeBob are the films dominating the box office. Another film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, opened over the Valentine’s Day weekend on about 3,200 screens and I would recommend it.
It falls within the spy genre and is delivered with the feel of a comic book. It is not as smart as the Jason Bourne series, but why try to be? Made primarily with British actors, it does rely on James Bond for background, but that’s okay. When taken against expectations, one gets a thoroughly fulfilling action spy flick that is part Matrix and part Quentin Tarantino. It is a combination that works, and people will be thoroughly entertained.
First, any good action movie needs a solid villain, and Kingsman calls upon the always busy Samuel Jackson to play the heel, Richmond Valentine. Jackson can be a bit tiring, as he is in front of audiences so often. In Kingsman, however, Samuel L. Jackson acts. His villain is woven into current events and the internet age in a way that is creepy and thought provoking. Jackson delivers his lines with a sympathetic but funny lisp and wears a baseball cap within a world of fine wines and dress suits. He unleashes a creepy plot, playing on people’s fears about the capabilities of the internet and unknown problems associated with global warming. Casual fans will enjoy the film for what it is; thoughtful fans will leave the theater wondering if there isn’t something eerily dangerous about Samuel L. Jackson’s wealthy Richmond Valentine.
Valentine’s right hand “man” is an equally interesting character. His assassin and most trusted confidant is the physically challenged woman, Gazelle, whose limitations are never presented as part of the story. We see her as slim, athletic, and ruthless. Her disability is part of her weaponry, as she has modified Oscar Pistorius-type legs. They feature sword-like blades attached to mechanical feet. At first you wonder if her character is going to be at all believable, but when she pounces like a cat, moves like a gymnast, and kills like a terrorist, you just accept she is bad ass. Played by Sofia Boutella, she is a merciless and efficient killer.
The hero for much of the film is the character of Galahad, played ably Colin Firth. His presence is woven together with Eggsy, given to us by new comer Taron Egerton. The start of the movie provides a nice back story wrapped in honor and duty, where Galahad is in the Middle East serving with Eggsy’s father. When he makes a mistake and the father is killed, Galahad decides to aid the son back in London if he is ever asked. Eggsy grows up with great talent but is fatherless, going through life making costly mistakes. The two are brought together when Eggsy calls in the favor Galahad offered so long ago. Firth comes across as very cultured and professorial, but we are given a hilarious and well-choreographed bar fight scene where he answers Eggsy’s call for help. With bodies and beer bottles flying, viewers are exposed to stylistic and intense action scenes. Firth’s delivery balances between humility and sophistication, and it works really well.
Equally impressive is the journey and growth of Eggsy, as he is tested and learns whether he is good enough to become a secret agent. Compared to the other recruits he is a bit of an outcast, and the storytellers avoid the cliché of his character solving every problem. As the film progresses, Eggsy is exposed to Galahad’s world of culture, intrigue, and defense of king and country. When Eggsy is forced into the role of hero, Egerton’s performance is confident and fun.
The background characters are interesting and support the story nicely. Michael Caine plays the leader of the Kingsman. His character is cold, unforgiving, and results-oriented. Sophie Cookson plays Roxy, a competing recruit. She is a fine patriot, strong but flawed, and audiences are left wishing she played a larger role in the plot. The Kingsman’s tech guy is the character of Merlin. Played by Mark Strong, Merlin adds much to the film. Often a mentor, also forced into the role of hero, he delivers a great performance.
Compared to the other movies at the box office right now, Kingsman is definitely worth seeing. Put up against other modern spy films, it gains a worthy nod. If the creators were hoping it would be good enough for a franchise, they should be able to carry that success forward.
A minor complaint is the level of violence and the level of creativity put into its delivery. The action sequences are fast and heart pounding, but the excessive and graphic nature is over the top. Yes, the origins of the tale come from a comic book, but the needlessly harsh death scenes push the envelope too much. Movie fans are taken by the actors’ performances and are guided through an intriguing story. However, they are uncomfortably yanked out of the film when special effects laden killings replace good storytelling. Let’s hope that if this does turn into a franchise, the graphic comic nature of the violence gets toned down a bit.
All in all, Kingsman: Secret Service is worth seeing. Putting down your hard earned money for two hours of entertainment is well worth it here.