Matthew Vaughn, who’s previous films in the director’s chair number just four – “Layer Cake”, “Stardust”, “Kick Ass” and “X-Men: First Class” – does not do subtle. But he certainly does do stylish and entertaining. Of this set of past works, Kingsman is probably most closely aligned to Kick Ass with its anarchic tone and comic-book violence. This is not surprising given the film is based, as was Kick-Ass, on a new comic book series by Mark Millar (this time with Dave Gibbons).
Colin Firth plays Harry Hart (aka Galahad) a member of a secret spy network called Kingsman. Firth is quite outstanding playing a gentleman spy: a role he was born for. When one of their own gets terminated on a mission Harry proposes Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of an ex-colleague, to go forward to a lethal form of training to become the replacement Kingsman.
While all this is going on, a dastardly plan (that will result in global mayhem) is being plotted by the billionaire Valentine (a completely over-the-top and lisping Samuel L Jackson), ably protected by his female bodyguard (and literally a Blade Runner) Gazelle, played by the strikingly beautiful Algerian actress Sofia Boutella. Will the Kingsmen defeat the dastardly plot in time before the countdown runs out? (You can probably guess, but you’ll have fun finding out).
Whereas Bond has Universal Exports, Kingsman’s “cover” organisation is a Saville Row tailor’s called Kingsman, giving all of the spies an excuse to wear outrageously fashionable suits.
The “M” in this network has the codename of Arthur, played with enormous style by Michael Caine, especially in one notable scene where he suddenly slips from his posh Etonian accent into pure East End gangster. The “Q” equivalent is played by Vaughn-favourite Mark Strong, for once playing a good guy and playing it very well indeed.
It’s also great to see, before his Star Wars return, Mark (Luke Skywalker) Hamill playing a global warming expert, who has more that one reason to get a bit hot under the collar.
During the heyday of the early Bond films in the 60’s a number of spoof films arose: the gratingly erratic Casino Royale (with David Niven) being one, with James Coburn’s “Flint” movies being a better example. Kingsman is a worthy example of this genre: a film that has its tongue firmly in its cheek, and with a range of nice Bond-references, particularly in regard to the cliche about the villain telling the hero the details of his plot before putting him to an intricate and readily escapable death.
I really liked this film from the off. It oozes style from the opening titles onwards and when we move into the extended agent training section Vaughn turns the action knob to 10, showing off the style of newcomer Egerton, who has great charisma and carries the role well particularly when matched with the charming and likeable Roxy (a film debut for Sophie Cookson).
Unfortunately, in my view, Vaughan and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman can’t quite help themselves and turn the action knob to an unnecessary “11” for the second half of the film. A scene of carnage in a church will be too extreme for older or more sensitive viewers, and a gruesome scene to the stirring notes of “Land of Hope and Glory”, whilst hysterically funny and done purely for laughs, doesn’t quite fit with the mood of the film: it channels more “Mars Attacks!” than the Bond-spoof that has gone to date. Similarly a good gag with a Swedish princess is pushed a step too far in a final scene. A case of “less is more” in this reviewer’s book.
In summary, well worth watching for a fun Saturday-night cinema trip. My one request to Vaughn is that if there is a Kingsman 2 (which you could certainly see happening) then he maintains enough interest to direct it: I’m not sure I could stand the disappointment of another Kick Ass 2.
Fad Rating: FFFf.