Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service
PLOT: A secret society of British spies recruits a streetwise teenager to help them foil the plot of a ecologically-conscious villain who intends to exact a fiendish plan that will have severe consequences for most of the world's population.
REVIEW: If you thought THE INTERVIEW had a controversial ending, just wait until you get a load of KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, which delivers a finale so wild and over-the-top that most of the audience will find their jaws sitting firmly in their laps. But that's keeping in the overall spirit of the film, which is ballsy, manic, often ridiculous and loads of fun. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar - the team that brought us KICK-ASS a handful of years ago - KINGSMAN is sure to please those who go in with an open mind and a high tolerance for R-rated comedy and violence. The prudes and easily offended among you need not apply.
Indeed, the film is basically a James Bond origin story, KICK-ASS-style. It centers around the education of Eggsy, an aimless punk (Taron Egerton) who doesn't realize his birthright is to be involved with a group of secretive super-spies called the Kingsman. His mentor is the very proper Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who feels he owes a debt to Eggsy since he feels responsible for the death of the teenager's father. Eggsy's a good kid who spends most of his days thwarting local hoodlums and attempting to get his junkie mother on the right track, but he's far from prepared for the rigorous training the Kingsman will put him (and a small group of young adults who seem far more adept at the spy game than he is). Of course, he proves to be a natural, and with the guidance of Harry, he soon literally transforms into a dapper soldier with a license to kill.
But it's possible not even the veteran members of the Kingsman (including Michael Caine and Mark Strong) are sure how to handle their latest threat, an internet mogul named Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who is apparently responsible for the mysterious disappearances of dozens of high-profile global figures. Richmond takes the term "environmental freak" to a new level, as his fiendish Bond-villain type plan involves the systematic eradication of most of the humans on the planet. How he intends to make this happen is just one of the plot's utterly insane touches, while his failsafe to destroy any of his allies who turn against him is yet another.
Vaughn directs with tongue-in-cheek joy, as the movie (not unlike KICK-ASS) moves along swiftly with cocky assuredness in its own roguish charm. The humor fluctuates between dry British wit (thanks to Firth and Caine, both perfectly cast) and cartoonish zaniness. Sam Jackson's villain speaks with a conspicuous lisp and is prone to vomiting when he sees blood, though he has a generally chipper demeanor when discussing wiping out most of humanity. There's a distinct surreality about most of the film, but its very Britishness keeps it grounded. It's an odd mix, and yet it totally works.
The action is superb. There are several comedic action sequences that defy description, and even if the movie sometimes slips into resembling a video game, every moment has such frantic energy that it feels as if all your senses are being thoroughly walloped. There's no doubt this is a big screen experience, especially the startling and hyper-kinetic third act.
Vaughn gets such great mileage out of his spectacular cast. As noted, Firth is nothing short of perfect; he's the embodiment of classy British charm, and his deadpan delivery is the fitting counterbalance to the raucous going-ons around him. (Just wait until you see the sequence where he absolutely destroys about two dozen people single-handedly.) Jackson, who normally looks like he's having fun, no matter what the role, really shines here; his villain is thoroughly silly, but never less than completely entertaining to watch. It's my favorite Jackson performance in years. Taron Egerton is very natural and likable as the tough but vulnerable Eggsy, and he's joined by a fine young actress named Sophie Cookson as his love interest and Kingsman competitor. Oh, and it's got Mark Hamill in it. Mark Hamill.
I walked out of KINGSMAN a bit dazed, a bit weirded-out, a bit buzzed. I also had a big, stupid smile on my face, which is always an indicator of supreme good times had.
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