Matthew Vaughn wants you to know that the spy movies today are too serious. They are too dark, too long, and too exhausting. He fancies a time back when spy films had a sense of humor, took chances, and were over the top because, in his eyes, that made them something he feels these films were born to be….fun. It’s hard not to agree with him. Some of my fondest memories watching the old Bond films of Connery and Moore were how over the top they were. The cheesy villains, gadgets, and one liners. They made you roll your eyes but you didn’t care because you were enjoying the hell out of the movie. Now in in my opinion, the darkness of recent spy films, especially in the Bond franchise, has greatly improved the genre. While the old spy films are fun, they became almost too ridiculous and repetitive to the point where they were just bad movies. Kingsman: The Secret Service is Vaughn’s homage to the old spy film. Reminding Hollywood to try to have a little fun once in awhile.
The story really is pretty formulaic throughout the first half. You have a mission from the past where something goes wrong and an agent goes down and that agent just happens to be the father of who will be our hero Gary….excuse me, I mean “Eggsy” (Yeah…I don’t get it either) played competently by up and comer Taron Edgerton. Years pass and Eggsy has become the young lost soul who can’t see to find a place in the world while trying to protect his mother and baby sister from an abusive stepfather blah blah blah. But again, much like those old spy films, you aren’t seeing this film for the story.
The film really gets rolling once we get more familiar with Harry Hart, Eggsy’s mentor and certified butt-kicker in one of the very best performances of the early year by Colin Firth. When you think of the casting going into the film, Harry is the most crucial. He is used to embody that old school spy who is one part bad ass and one part distinguished English gentleman. Firth is an English gentleman by nature but the risk of casting him in the role is he is just about the least bad ass type actor you and even HE can think of. You’ll read this same thought in any other review of the film but that point really can’t be overstated. Any director worth anything can make someone look like they can kick ass with effects and such (cough…cough…Tobey Maguire), but if the actor isn’t believable throughout the rest of the film as a force to be reckoned with, then the film suffers. Firth talks the talk of the gentleman and kicks ass as the spy. He is smooth, funny, and blows up the film with his swagger. A performance not to be forgotten any time soon.
The rest of the casting is fitting. Samuel L. Jackson was the ideal choice to play an over the top villain because….well….what hasn’t he been in his career if not over the top? Probably my favorite thing about his Valentine character is that I was originally going to write about how it was a little difficult at times to understand what some of the British actors are saying due to their thick accents. Vaughn gives a wink to the audience (especially the American audience) by giving the American Valentine a lisp that makes him sounds ridiculous AND gives him a line calling out the issue Americans have with Brit actors “You Brits…Y’all talk so funny”. Well played Vaughn. We also get some solid supporting performances from Mark Strong and Michael Caine (playing a real ass hole in films lately) to round out a solid cast.
If you’re going into Kingsman: The Secret Service and expecting Skyfall the you’re going to be disappointed. Kingsman isn’t about being dark and serious with some powerful societal message to go along with it. Kingsman does what Matthew Vaughn intended it to do which was to give you a fun time. It’s got violence, comedy, and some great music adding up to a great time at the movies. So turn your brain off for a bit, enjoy the chaos and don’t bother trying to hide the smile you’ll have when you walk out of the theater….we all saw it.