If you like your suave British spy thrillers bloodier, bolder and totally unencumbered by standard studio regulations and guidelines, then Kingsman: The Secret Service is the 007 movie James Bond wishes he could appear in.
Director Matthew Vaughn’s latest romp is Kick Ass meets James Bond, an audaciously violent and infectiously fun take on your mild-mannered English spy film. Tackling another popular Mark Miller comic run, Vaughn brings his trademark over-the-top violence and stylish presentation to the proceedings with glee. Everything is so energetic and carefree that you may begin to feel guilty over just how much fun you’re having while watching the screen’s body count multiply rapidly.
While we’ve seen innumerable Bond-ripoffs in the past, this shaken martini has been laced with something far more potent this time around. Adrenaline, satire and wit.
A perfectly cast Colin Firth finally gets his chance at playing an extremely well-tailored English spy named Harry ‘Galahad’ Hart, who heads up an ultra-secret organisation known as the Kingsman. After losing one of their best men, the Kingsman are on the lookout for new blood. Enter London chav Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a street-wise kid who possesses remarkable ability, but lacks the mentoring necessary to help harness his vast potential. That is, until Firth’s Galahad takes the boy under his wing and attempts to turn the lad into a respectable gentleman (and spy).
It’s the plot of My Fair Lady. The film even goes as far as to call itself out on the matter.
The film is fully aware of what it is; a parody of Bond films, but unlike Austin Powers, this film plays up to these conventions with a straight face and a subtle wink to the audience.
Henchmen can’t shoot. The main villain has a lisp. Cigarette lighters explode. The finale is set in an underground lair, complete with cave prison.
But there are some wonderful new inclusions, in particular, a blade-footed femme fatale named Gazelle (dancer/actor Sofia Boutella), Firth’s and Jackson’s dialogue about spy movies while eating McDonalds, and an outrageously daring (and hugely controversial) church shootout scene underscored by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”.
The only major tradeoff for gaining almost complete creative freedom is the lack of funding to ensure top notch special effects. With only a third of the budget that 2012’s Skyfall (James Bond’s last adventure) received, Kingsman has a charm to its production values, but not everything looks as polished or rendered as you’d come to expect for a film of its genre.
While we need to get comfortable with the fact that Colin Firth will not be succeeding Daniel Craig as the next 007, we do have Kingsman to thank for getting us closer than we ever thought. Egerton has real talent and star-potential. It won’t be hard for audiences to root for him in the eventual sequels.
Vaughn’s latest is an envelope pushing, subversive action extravaganza and has the makings of a long and successful franchise to rival Mr. Bond at his own game.
To that I say, game on!