“Kingsman: The Secret Service” Blends Bond With “Kick-Ass”
By Scott Kurland
Film: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Starring: Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Sophie Cookson, Michael Caine, and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Here’s a question for all of you, and you may find it foolish. Is James Bond still entertaining? I know everyone loved “Skyfall” and we’re eagerly awaiting for “Spectre” to come out in November. But, after years of Dalton and Moore killing the franchise, do younger audiences care about 007? I found myself asking that question after viewing this week’s film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. The Bond series had camp, like “Kingsman” does now, but Bond today is all business. Bond also had gadgets, but now has a more Bourne oriented style in terms of weaponry. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” opened the door for all these questions, but now we have to put it on the chopping block. Lets find out if it’s any good, shall we? This is “Kingsman: The Secret Service”.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is a Kingsman. A Kingsman is a secret agent for “Her Majesty”. The Kingsman started as the royal tailors but, as the years went on, became agents. In the field Harry goes by the codename Galahad, I’m guessing it’s in reference to Sir Galahad. Actually, all the Kingsman have knightly code names, and work for their leader Arthur (Michael Caine). Problems arise when one of their top agents Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is killed in duty by the evil Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Now the Kingsman must assemble and pick recruits to compete for Lancelot’s spot in the service. Harry’s choice is a young delinquent named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who might be the strongest candidate there. If he can only put his ego aside for five minutes, he might make agent. As the recruits train, Harry finds himself digging deeper and deeper to learn who Valentine truly is, and what he’s up to. Will Harry save the day or could this be the end of the Kingsman?
Colin Firth is absolutely terrific as Hart. Firth brings that 1960s David Niven sophistication to the role. Harry Hart is a good agent, and one hell of a sentimentalist. Firth balances those two characteristics beautifully and really defines the secret agent role with old school flare. What I loved about Firth’s performance wasn’t just his reserve and charm, but also the fact Firth does most of his own stunts. That’s right, a 55 year old Academy award winning actor does flips, punches, and gun play. It’s spectacular to watch him fight and be a true secret agent. I think I enjoyed learning this tidbit the most: not only was he denied the role of James Bond in the early 90s, but he was turned down for Westley in “The Princess Bride.” They said Firth didn’t appear to look like a swashbuckler or like an international man of mystery. Firth can now officially say he is an action star, and playing Harry Hart proves it.
I really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as the villain Richmond Valentine and Taron Egerton as Eggsy. With that said, before I praise them I need to point out a few flaws...I know I’m worst. What appears to be Jackson’s best characteristic, is also his worst. Valentine has a speech impediment which is both hysterical and adorable. Jackson sounds like a 6 year old boy on a power trip, it’s just darling. Yet, every now and then he loses that lispy tone and goes into Sam Jackson voice. To me, that’s not bad, but it’s not great either. This isn’t Jackson’s first rodeo. He’s done voices before, so he should have tried to stay consistent throughout the entire film. Still, Jackson as Valentine is one of the greatest Bond villains that never existed. He’s over the top and zany with the right amount of naivety thrown in. Valentine is almost like one of those classic Bond villains in that believes he’s doing good when in fact he’s doing evil. Jackson gives such a great performance, and there’s a little script detail they add that was genius. Valentine hates blood and violence and has to look away when people are getting killed by his henchwoman .... it’s so brilliant.
Egerton on the other hand makes a film faux pas, one that many know not to do. He mugs at the camera. If you don’t know what mugging is, it’s quite simple to explain. Know when an actor over acts by making a sad or exaggerated expression on their face? That’s mugging, and Egerton does it twice. Granted, he’s still young and new to the acting game, so that mistake can be overlooked. What I did like about Egerton was his likability as Eggsy. This is a very defined, rebellious, and troubled character, but we still need to root for him. Egerton fleshes Eggsy out and makes him realistically likable. Eggsy has flaws that make him far from perfect. Egerton embraces Eggsy warts and all; which in turn make us like all of Eggsy’s baggage. This is strong performance from a newer actor.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a fantastic film, but it does have some problems. For example, all the male characters are developed and well rounded. Firth is the hero, Jackson the villain, and Egerton the apprentice. Those are all givens, but they also have back stories that push them forward. So it saddens me to say that one of the only two female leads is weak. Sophie Cookson is that weak link. She plays Roxy who is Eggsy’s partner both in training and in the field. Cookson appears to be the love interest (SPOILER ALERT: she’s not); however, she has no back story. We never learn why she’s in the competition. We know that Mark Strong’s Merlin, who is their teacher and gadget guru was the one to recommend her. We never learn why though, is he her dad? Is he a family friend? Uncle? God Father? We get nothing from her, and it makes for a one dimensional shell of a character. We don’t know much about her except she hates heights and has a fear of sky diving. These are small potatoes when it comes to writing a female lead. Why is she there, who is she doing this for? Is she becoming an agent for her mom? Her dad? Herself? I mean, throw us a bone here, anything would be nice.
The other flaw is blending in two mismatched production designs. In the entire film everything has a certain look, it’s clean, defined, and classy. Everyone looks a certain way and it all feels like a perfect fit. However, there’s a scene in a hate monger church that feels out of context and, most importantly, it’s out of design. Everyone is too cartoonish and the makeup is so caked on to a very gross level. Yet, everything is made up for with one of the greatest fight scenes in movie history. I won’t give too much away, but I will say when you see Colin Firth beat up a bunch of rednecks you’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s the great thing with “Kingsman: The Secret Service”; every time they make a mistake, Matthew Vaughn the director makes up for it a moment later.
Matthew Vaughn has done it again. Like “Kick-Ass”, he and his co-writer Jane Goldman take Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel and truly know how to adapt it. They find the right structure and context, cutting out only what needs to be cut. They make it straightforward and, most importantly, they make it fun. This is a fun film, and the fight scenes are spectacular to watch. Normally, a fight scene is filmed two ways, either with too many close ups or too many wide shots. Somehow Vaughn and his team discovered the right formula for depicting a fight. Not only is it a great story, but it’s the most fun you’ll have at the movies.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a fun thrill ride that brings back that classic Sean Connery Bond film, and blends it with today's fast paced world. Although the female lead is underdeveloped, and there’s a serious makeup issue in one scene, both of these problems are minor. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a fantastic film. It’s not for everyone, but the people who it is meant for will love it. I highly recommend you check it out.
REVIEW RATING: A