“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Kingsman is director Matthew Vaughn’s fifth feature film and there was a lot of speculation over this movie considering he had chosen to direct this over the sequel to his highly successful X-Men First Class. He was also in talks to direct the new Star Wars franchise, but Vaughn wanted to adapt Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic book “The Secret Service” instead. A comic book I had never heard of, but Vaughn’s dedication to the material is inspired by his love for the old James Bond films, and this adaptation plays out as a love letter to those former movies with fascinating villains and a far fetched plot. Kingsman is rich in style and the film is beautifully directed by Vaughn who has always proved his abilities behind the camera. His 2004 debut, Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig might actually be the reason why he has now become the new James Bond. Vaughn, who had produced some of Guy Ritchie’s films, was heavily influenced by him in that first film, but he has established himself now with his own personal style. My favorite film from Vaughn is still Kick-Ass which felt fresh when it first came out and established itself as a refreshing parody of super hero films. My expectations for Kingsman grew when I heard that this comic book adaptation was written by the same person who wrote the Kick-Ass comic because I was a huge fan of that film. However, the idea didn’t feel as fresh this time and I had some issues with a couple of violent scenes that took me out of the movie. Kingsman does do to spy movies what Kick-Ass did to super hero movies, but if you saw that film you could expect some of the dark turns and twists that were going to come here. It is very similar in style and some of the characters go through the same fate but it is still fun and entertaining.
Kingsman centers on a British spy organization run by Arthur (Michael Caine) that is trying to stop a global threat from a billionaire tech innovator named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). When one of the spies dies during a mission, the agency decides to recruit a new one. Each one of the spies chooses a young candidate and Harry Hart (Colin Firth) puts his eyes on a street kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who shows a lot of promise. The recruits have to go through an intense program under the guidance of their instructor Merlin (Mark Strong). Meanwhile Harry continues to investigate Valentine and try to discover what he is up to as several celebrities and government officials begin to disappear.
The film felt bipolar at times. There are incredibly fun action sequences that are directed very well by Vaughn, but at the same time there are some disturbing violent scenes that take place in a church. The violence is cartoonish, but there are instances where it does feel out of place. I don’t know why some of those scenes took me out of the movie because Vaughn is just having fun with the action scenes, but they just felt out of place. The things that did work best for me in Kingsman are the strong performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Firth who play off each other extremely well. The scenes they share together are wonderful and their self referential movie talk is hilarious. Valentine has a lisp which reminds us of some of the physical dysfunctions that the early villains from the Bond franchise had. Vaughn introduces small elements like this as he pays homage to some of those entertaining films. Newcomer, Taron Egerton, also delivers the good as this young street smart kid who is learning the ways of becoming a gentlemen. His scenes with Firth are another highlight of the film. Perhaps the most entertaining thing about Kingsman is the recruiting process the kids have to go through. One of the other potential candidates is Roxy who is played very well by Sophie Cookson. She shares excellent chemistry with Egerton. Mark Strong might be my favorite character in this film and he also gets plenty of screen time. Sofia Boutella also delivers a memorable role as one of Valentine’s sidekicks. Kingsman is highly entertaining and has many positive things going for it, but there are a couple of disturbing scenes that felt out of place. Despite this, Vaughn is still five for five and a director I will continue to look forward to.