Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service photo starrating-3stars.jpgKingsman: The Secret Service is best when it focuses on the superlative training of applicants for an elite agency. At one point new recruits are tied to tracks while an oncoming train is speeding toward them down the path. They will be released only if they divulge the true nature of their organization. The image is particularly apropos when describing the ridiculous way in which Kingsman ends. It’s a great film for most of its run time.  I mean really wonderful. Then it goes completely “off the rails” in spectacular fashion.

Kingsman is a comic book update of a James Bond thriller but with the snotty attitude of director Matthew Vaughn’s own Kick-Ass. Colin Firth plays an impeccably dressed, well mannered spy heading a group that trains young men and women as deadly assassins. After a really marvelous action sequence, I was almost hoping Firth would remain the star. The well choreographed fight where he takes down a room full of combatants is sensational. The same goes for the gadgets, like when he uses his umbrella as a shield. He’s got the prim and proper manners of Mary Poppins with the physical prowess of Lennox Lewis. When a key member of his secret organization dies in the line of duty, he must seek a replacement. Among those being considered is Eggsy, the son of another murdered agent from the past. As portrayed by Taron Egerton he’s sort of a working class hooligan without any direction in life. Cue Harry Hart who’s there to help. They have great chemistry. It’s buoyant but the stakes are high. For three quarters of the film, the story concerns the organization and the development of talent. There is a series of tests designed to select adept individuals that surpass expectations.  When one of the team is given a faulty parachute after the group has already skydived out of a plane, it’s a real nail biter. You never know if an applicant is going to get killed in the selection process.

For about 80-90 minutes this movie is a blast. The picture is a well crafted adventure that delights the senses with eye popping action and colorful set design. Unfortunately the production doesn’t maintain that upbeat sensibility. A villain in the form of a lisping Internet billionaire hijacks the narrative. Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) believes humanity is a virus and global warming is the fever. So to stop this threat to the environment, he will exterminate people by distributing free SIM cards that will explode at his command. That could be fun, but then the lighthearted touch devolves into parody. There’s also an undercurrent of hate that invites us to cheer in the widespread genocide of human beings. I guess because the script has depicted these people as beneath contempt, it‘s supposed to be ok. They happily kill some stereotypical Arabs too with Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” blasting in the background. When it’s not being offensive it gets incredibly zany. It winds up being closer to Austin Powers than a James Bond flick at the conclusion. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing but the deviation in tone is so jarring with everything that came before.  Pity, because Matthew Vaughn sets up a really enjoyable thriller that engages the viewer….only to throw it in a dumpster during the final quarter.

02-15-15

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24 Responses to “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

  1. I’m seeing this tomorrow and reading your great review will help me keep my expectations in check.

  2. I did not pick up so much on the spirit of hatred that stemmed from SLJ’s actions but you’re dead on. There were some scenes here that I felt were dumb, overly silly and the church scene — while a lot of fun — had one or two choice words that really took me way out of the film. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, even though they were few and far between. It didn’t fit the script. Nor did the ending. That’s the part I’m probably going to be lingering on the most.

    But I did like SLJ’s character. His lisp, and I know it’s going to make me a bad person for saying this, really had me cracking up.

    • You understand me perfectly. I wouldn’t say Jackson’s character was a problem considered alone. It was how the narrative changed as Valentine became a bigger part of the story. Yeah the church massacre was really ugly for so many reasons.

      P.S. I know that the two have since healed their rift but why did Jackson’s character base his personal style on Spike Lee?

      • I wasn’t aware the two had tension between them. Did something happen recently?

      • It’s been going on for about 2 decades. When Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson reunited for Oldboy, it was the first time the two had worked together since Jungle Fever in 1991. Spike Lee has long been critical of Quentin Tarantino for his use of the ‘N’ word. Lee made this famously known regarding Jackie Brown. He brought it up again with Django Unchained. Samuel L Jackson appeared in these and many other Tarantino productions. Jackson took the criticism personally.

  3. The presence of what we assume to be Barack Obama and what happens to our 44th president was problematic for me, and killed an already limited enjoyment I had.

    • Yeah apparently the world leaders all sign on to Valentine’s scheme in support. When the bad guys fail, the world leaders meet their demise. Then the audience is invited to cheer. Wow.

  4. I’d like to see this one. Wasn’t too sure about it when the trailers came out, but from what I’m hearing, it could be a lot of fun. I do see what you’re saying in your last paragraph though. I’ve checked the theater playing this twice that I know of, and the first time, it seemed like a really goofy movie; the second time, I stopped in earlier in the movie and it suddenly seemed like a straightforward action thriller. And the rap music that plays over the credits…what’s up with that exactly? I just can’t seem to fit rap music with spy thrillers movies in my mind.

    P.S.: Did you see Fifty Shades of Grey? I saw it yesterday and loved it as a guilty pleasure. Though in terms of quality, as you’ve no doubt heard, it’s terrible.

  5. A lot of people went ga-ga for this, but I was disappointed after “that” scene outside the church. Colin Firth is far and away the best thing in it and the finale was stupid more than entertaining, best summed up by Samuel L. Jackson’s uber annoying villain. Loved the training sequences though, especially the parachute scene. Marvellous.

    • I was more disgusted by what happened inside the church. But outside it kind of finished the deal. After the narrative became all about Valentine’s evil plan, I was done.

    • I feel the need to make a correction in your post. Colin Firth was decent, but “marvelous” more aptly describes the finale than the training sequences. They simply played out way too predictably to be memorable in any way.

      • No ‘correction’ required. The finale was utterly stupid and a major let-down after everything that had gone before. Once Firth didn’t feature, it just went downhill from there – sometimes predictability is a good thing, so long as it’s entertaining.

  6. magnolia12883 Says:

    Is there a reason your posters and star ratings aren’t showing up? I ask because I copied your stars for comparison on my key to symbols and it’s also not showing up there…

  7. This was fun. A little corny, at times, but I liked it a lot. Colin Firth was awesome and smooth. Train was also very good. 4 stars.

  8. I thought the film was tonally confused right from its onset. Maybe not blatantly, but there were times when I was pondering how seriously I’m suppose to be taking everything happening, and it was never made clear to me until the end. The church scene and the climax were inarguably the best parts of this film, because they were the only parts that were genuinely visceral and exciting. Unfortunately the middle was a plodding bore. I didn’t care about the boring kid and I didn’t care if he became a Kingsman or not. Luckily when he did, things picked up.

  9. Tied to a train track? That’s a lot of pressure! I’ve heard Kingsman is a lot of fun, but the consensus is that it can be offensive at points and the ending isn’t so great. Still interested to see it though.

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