Kingsman: The Secret Service
dir Matthew Vaughn
scr Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
prd Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, David Reid
with Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Mark Hamill, Tom Prior, Samantha Womack, Geoff Bell
release UK 24.Jan.15, US 13.Feb.15
15/UK Fox 2h09
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Shake hands with the devil: Egerton, Firth and Jackson

strong cookson caine
See also:
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) The King's Man (2021)
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Kingsman: The Secret Service Filmmakers Vaughn and Goldman take on the James Bond genre with the same irreverent tone they deployed in Kick-Ass: an action movie that refuses to tone itself down for the PG-13 audience, revelling in foul-mouthed dialog and exaggerated grisliness. Those who take the violence seriously may find it difficult to watch.

Kingsman is a completely independent super-secret London-based spy agency whose agents are gentlemanly Knights of the Round Table. When one of them is killed, Harry (Firth) taps young Eggsy (Egerton) as a protege to fill the empty slot. Eggsy's late dad was a Kingsman, and he impresses Harry's colleagues Merlin and Arthur (Strong and Caine) with his potential. Meanwhile, billionaire Valentine (Jackson) is up to some sort of nefarious plan with his blade-footed sidekick Gazelle (Boutella). And Eggsy and fellow rookie Roxy (Cookson) will have to work with the more experienced agents to stop him.

The script riffs through 007 formulas, often with direct references. "This isn't that kind of movie," they keep saying to each other (and to the audience), although the difference is fairly cosmetic. Vaughn and Goldman merrily ramp things up with seriously nasty action, dark plot turns and sexually charged dialog that goes way beyond a double entendre. While the terrific Firth, Strong and Caine mix stiff upper lip gentility with rather profane silliness, and Jackson adds the camply villainous megalomania.

At the centre, Egerton is an engaging young hero, although we kind of dread his transformation from rough inner-city lad to tweedy gentleman. Still, the young actor holds his own well against what the script throws at him. Even if everything on-screen is gimmicky and controlled, there's a lively edginess to Eggsy that at least adds a whiff of unpredictability. So the violence is genuinely gruesome up until the balletic and overtly comical excesses of the grand finale, scored of course to Elgar's Land of Hope and Glory.

The clear intent here was to make a Bond movie free of the focus-group market constraints that tend to bland down blockbusters for the widest possible audience. But of course this film isn't nearly as subversive as it looks, because it's actually giving the fanboys exactly what they want, ramping up the grisliness to cartoonishly hideous heights while indulging in constant profanity, vulgarity and knowing post-modern observations. But even if the freewheeling tone is thoroughly calculated, it's a lot of fun. And it'll leave audiences gagging for more.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 9.Jan.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall