Kingsman: The Secret Service English Movie
To paraphrase a quote that many of the characters in Kingsman use with great elan, director Matthew Vaughn "knows his shit". He definitely knows his novels and he has complete understanding of the world of comic books.
One look at the maverick filmmaker's filmography and it's not difficult to spot a common thread running through all of his films: enormously stylish and epically fun. His debut Layer Cake was almost solely responsible for the hiring of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, he took a completely different path to making superhero films with the ultra-violent, parody-ish Kick Ass, and he then gave the fledgling X-Men series a new lease of life with X-Men: First Class, which remains the franchise's best film till date.
Vaughn's latest Kingsman: The Secret Service, does his reputation no harm, as he goes about crafting a two-hour long action film with an amount of swagger and ridiculousness that would put the Bonds and the Bournes and the Bauers of the world to shame.
Let me state this fact unequivocally: Kingsman is preposterous and absurd and ludicrous and any other words that thesaurus could throw at you. But it is all those things intentionally, which also makes it wacky and farcical and comical and more entertaining than any other recent silly action movie that you could think of.
The world of Kingsman is a dangerous one, full of secrets and espionage and genocides. People are killed off with less thought than you'd put into swatting a particularly annoying fly. The spies are the sort who operate on the belief that getting caught without a dapper suit on would be an act of treason. Umbrellas double-up as bulletproof shields, wristwatches shoot darts that could induce amnesia and lighters are capable of igniting much more than just a cigarette.
Caught in this world is the simpleton, down-on-his-luck "Eggsy" (Taron Egerton), who is recruited by the suave and guilt-ridden super-spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) to join his ultra-secret intelligence agency called Kingsman, that incidentally also doubles-up as a tailoring business (hence the dapper suits). They have to face off against a lisping billionaire/psychopathic megalomaniac Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who projectile vomits at the sight of blood.
With the kind and amount of tongue-in-cheek humor that goes on in Kingsman, another film could've easily been sunk by its cutesy smartness. But Vaughn embraces the bizarre and absurd nature of his characters and situations, stocking the film with a load of self-aware, self-referential dialogue that at times parodies the very genre it belongs to. Several references are made to the Bond films of yore that were full of devious villains with flimsy motivations and bad puns.
But despite all the references and nods and homages and inspirations, Kingsman is still its own film. Writers Vaughn and Jane Goldman throw together a plot that isn't really intelligent, but is actually pretty smart. A majority portion of the film is dedicated to the recruitment-and-training of Eggsy, a smart move in terms of setting up sequels, but not one that makes for the greatest viewing. Sure, it has its moments of fun, with an unlimited supply of British humor and cuss words at display. But the film never really manages to accelerate and become the film that it wants to be.
It's towards the last hour or so that the film, prompted by a twist that you wouldn't see coming in a million years, goes into overdrive and the plot takes over the proceedings. Actually, the action scene just before the aforementioned twist is the catalyst that sets the wheels in motion. That particular scene, presented in a Birdman-style single shot, is a bombastic piece of action choreography that gets your pulse pounding and takes the plot forward at the same time.
What follows is a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute race to the finish line that is so satisfying, it'll make you forget any and all flaws that weighed down the first half of the film. Justice is served, but not before Vaughn gives the audience a moment or two where they begin to doubt if a happy ending is really on the cards.
While the special effects during the action sequences are unconvincing at most times, the camera work by George Richmond is incredibly stylish and fun to watch. He complements Vaughn's style of filmmaking that is loud and unsubtle, but also zany and quirky. The same goes for the editing by Eddie Hamilton, Jon Harris and Conrad Buff IV, that varies from short and quick cuts during action scenes to long ones. The musical score by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson is a big ball of cliches.
The film boasts of some very interesting performances. Colin Firth seems to be having more fun here than he did at his son's first birthday party. He breaks out of the mold of more serious films that he usually does and lets himself loose here. He plays his part with so much charm that it could drown a football stadium full of people. He delivers his quippy one-liners with panache and performs the action sequences with free-spirited abandon.
Taron Egerton, as the spy apprentice, does a reasonably fine job, considering the only requirement from him was to act British. Michael Caine plays a richer, more suave Alfred, his character from the Dark Knight trilogy. Mark Strong, remarkably, does not play the villain in a spy thriller this time around, and does well in an uncharacteristic role.
The scene-stealer is once again Samuel L. Jackson, with some inspired piece of villainy. You take his popular character Nick Fury, remove his eye patch and dress him up as a retarded Kanye West, and you'll get Jackson's character in Kingsman. He exhibits an impish charm that is impossible to look past, and the lisping only adds to his character. He gets some of the best lines and the most self-referential material, and he pulls it all off with style. Also, his chemistry with Firth in their few sequences together is scintillating and thrilling.
Overall, Kingsman is like that roller coaster that takes a long time to reach to the top, but then it takes you by surprise when you least expect it. By the time the ride has ended, you remember nothing of the initial lull. Oh yeah, Kingsman is one hell of a roller coaster.