Kingsman: The Secret Service - Reviewed By Dj Mack

I'd just like to let all my readers know that normalcy is near for this blog. I hope to get caught up with all my Throwback Thursday Reviews as soon as possible, starting with that infamously delayed Inception review (it's now been nearly two and a half months)... Following up that review will be a Triple-R over Interstellar and Throwback Thursday Reviews for Stand By Me, The World's End, The Shining, the 1990 It miniseries, Batman (1989), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Risky Business (1983). I'll be watching each before writing the review (as per usual) so it may take a while for me to get completely caught up, but I intend on doing so in the next few weeks. Most of these movies tied in to a recent release in some way, shape, or form, but I'll explain that in each respective review. Anyways, I'm looking back at Kingsman: The Secret Service to see how it's held-up since the sequel comes out this weekend and I can't currently release my thoughts on Kingsman: The Golden Circle (For an explanation, see Fall 2017 Important Update). 

'Kingsman: The Secret Service' Review

Recollection- 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' Review

Reflection- I can recall not having the highest of expectations for Kingsman: The Secret Service when it was released and being blown away upon leaving the theater. I went in hoping for an entertaining spy flick, and was surprised to see a rapturing R-rated spy flick worth the buzz that also happened to be one of the best action movies released that year. It's really rare for an action movie to unexpectedly knock your socks clean off (the most recent example I can even think of would have to be John Wick). I'll get into the nitty-gritty in a moment, but I genuinely think I find more to love about Kingsman: The Secret Service every time I sit down to watch it! I'm revisiting the film, because my first go at reviewing Kingsman: The Secret Service only skimmed the surface of my opinion. This review will include slight spoilers by the way, so you've now been warned and may now read at your own risk.

Review- Kingsman: The Secret Service accompanies Eggsy, a bright but troublesome delinquent, as he's selected to train alongside a host of expert youth competing for an available slot in an international intelligence agency known as the "Kingsman." The Kingsman are unlike most spy organizations because they don't tie themselves to any particular government or bureaucracy. They remain anonymous due to their public position as tailors and draw inspiration from the Knights of the Round Table, bequeathing each member with a designation matching one of the knights (ie. Lancelot, Galahad, Merlin). Meanwhile, a maniacal mastermind's sick schemes put the planet in peril.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who adapted Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons' comic book series into a feature length screenplay with the aid of Jane Goldman. If you follow my blog relatively regularly, you may be familiar with the phrase "style-over-substance" when I've discussed films like Atomic Blonde, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, or just about any live-action Transformers movie. Well oddly enough, Kingsman: The Secret Service is actually the ideal union of the two. Vaughn's stylized action sequences service the story, and vice-versa. This is a franchise that's unapologetically out-there as being a racy, outlandish take on Bond and it's bloody brilliant. 

One of the things I love about Kingsman: The Secret Service is that it's a film with no boundaries. Vaughn's never afraid to push the envelope with something too risqué, and the film never feel quartered to mandate a specific MPAA rating. The celebrated "Free Bird" church massacre sequence is the perfect representation of this. That set piece is absolutely nuts and dared to leap far beyond any preconceived ethical notions, where other filmmakers would have just walked as far away from that line as possible. As the film progresses,Vaughn ratchets up the insanity somehow manages to make the most perverse plot-points enjoyable to watch. 

Kingsman: The Secret Service literally blew people's minds. The film dared to detonate the actual head of America's head of state at the time of release for goodness sakes! The only other place you'd find something that bold and committal would be in some political propaganda piece! I still laugh out loud watching this sequence because of it's paired perfectly with Edgar Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance." 

On top of all that, the script is sharp with an audacious edge. Vaughn and Goldman's screenplay verges on a sense of self-awareness when the spy and villain are in a room together discussing their situation's similarity to the classic spy movies. At its heart, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a love letter of-sorts to the Bond films of the past. Vaughn and Goldman pay respect to tropes of the genre with a wink and a nod, while also providing a fresh spin on it all. Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn't simply relish in the past, but manages to pave a way forward that keeps with the times.

In other departments, the visual effects hold up quite well under scrutiny, the costuming and production design suit the lavish sense of style associated with the gentleman spy, and Henry Jackman's score interjects a suave, sophisticated sound that surprisingly works wonders coupled with the assortment of catchy tunes compiled on the soundtrack.

As for the cast, Taron Egerton still astounds me to this day with his take on Eggsy. Egerton exhibits all the makings of a modern movie star with charisma aplenty and a rugged exterior to match, enabling him to share scenes with the more experienced actors and match them line-for-line. Sophie Cookson also makes an impressionable breakout as Roxy, accentuating a resourcefulness and determination that allows her to come across as a convincing friend/rival to Eggsy. Meanwhile, classically trained actors including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Michael Caine weigh in on the fun and each have their own time to shine as Harry Hart, Merlin, and Arthur. Firth, in particular, goes above-and-beyond as another aged action hero that steals the limelight whenever he engages in fisticuffs. 

 Samuel L. Jackson was clearly having the time of his life playing such an eccentric, unconventional antagonist. Jackson wrings out ample personalty from Valentine's minor character traits and projects an egotistic charisma that's larger-than-life and totally befitting of the character. Sofia Boutella also manages to stand out among the stacked cast as Gazelle, Valentine's lethal hench-woman with weaponized powerbocks for legs. Boutella imbues Gazelle with enough menace to make the character more memorable than most hench-man have any right to be. 

When it's all said-and-done, I admire Kingsman: The Secret Service most for transcending the genre and adapting a light-hearted spy affair relevant to today when so many spy movies these days take the darker route. It doesn't hurt that Vaughn's direction allows the sillier scenes to flourish and the cast put forth quality performances all around. To sum-it-up, Kingsman: The Secret Service is funny, endearing, and most importantly incredibly entertaining. What more could you want from a spy action-adventure flick?

Now that was fun. Yet another comicbook based movie in a year that is set to be saturated with them, of course, but Kingsman stands out amongst them as a return to the classic days of spy thrillers. It is, of course, a pastiche of Bond, Danger Man and its like, but gloriously over-the-top in a way the genre hasn't been since the early eighties. Absolutely a comedy, it is nonetheless a gripping action movie with some nailbiting set pieces. It is violent, of course; god, is it violent. Yet the violence reaches such ludicrous extremes that it becomes utterly laughable. Indeed, one sequence, which by rights should be gruesome in the extreme, is played as a riot of music and colour that's almost Pythonic in its humour. The final climactic battle, set against the backdrop of worldwide, uncontrolled violence is as brutal as the film gets, and even in this is tongue kept in cheek.

I'm not familiar with The Secret Service, the original comic series upon which the film is based. I am generally not keen on the more recent work of Mark Millar, full as it is of grotesque and sexual violence, but his ideas are often brilliant. From what I understand, Kingsman diverts significantly from the source material, so much so that we're really watching a Matthew Vaughn creation. As with KickAss, he and Jane Goldman have taken the basics and turned them into a storming screenplay. For all the visual spectacle and the wit of the script, this would fail were it not for the strength of the cast. Michael Caine, Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson are all as good as they ever are; for all their overexposure, the reason they are continually cast in major films is that they will always draw crowds and always deliver great performances. Firth, in particular, is spot on as the Steed-like Harry Hart, most skilled of the Kingsmen, while Jackson is hilarious as the lisping Valentine, a megalomaniac Steve Jobs.

There are excellent turns by Vaughn's reliable favourite Mark Strong (in a non-villainous role for once), the stalwart Mark Hamill (not playing himself, as he would in a strict adaptation of the book, I am told), and young Sophie Cookson as Kingsman recruit Roxie. The film relies on its star though. Taron Egerton is fantastic as rough-as-nails recruit Eggsy, pure hard-edged charm throughout. Some people have said they don't want to see the film, having seen the trailers and considering it chavvy, which is so spectacularly missing the point it's unreal. Kingsman is profoundly anti-snobbery, and equally against reverse snobbery, hammering home the point that it's by their background that someone should be judged, but their character. And their ability to blow people's heads off.