Having heard very mixed reviews of the latest offering from Matthew Vaughan, Kingsman: The Secret Service, I went in with surprisingly balanced expectations. Having been a fan of Kick-Ass, Stardust and X-Men: First Class that Vaughan directed, but less Kick-Ass 2 that he produced, I had an idea what to expect in terms of irreverent, comicbook-y, fun and, to a degree, that’s what I got.
The film tells the story of a new recruit to the titular secret agents organisation and takes us through his recruitment and training while a Roger Moore-era James Bond like plot ticks away in the background. In the second half of the film this plot comes to the fore and we get a fairly run of the mill spy thriller climax, albeit with its tongue in its cheek and certainly not in the manner of the more recent, super serious, Bond films.
While all this sounds like it should be a lot of fun, and at points it is, the main problem with the film is how much it tries to cram in making a bit on the long side for a light-hearted romp and with a few too many ideas too. As well as his basic story, the recruit we follow, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), has the double back story of being son of a Kingsman as well as being working class (with all the stereotypical tropes that come with that). This packs the whole film, but especially the first half, with constant fish out of water reminders of this and a moral of sorts about making more out of your life on your own terms.
It is the team of mentors for Eggsy that provide most of the film’s highlights with Colin Firth appearing to have a great time as Harry Hart, codename Galahad, showing us a hint of what his Bond may have been, albeit with a lot more comic book style action that the worlds most famous super spy has ever seen. Along with Firth, Mark Strong’s Merlin is highly entertaining with an affected Scottish accent in a Q-like role, and, though Michael Caine doesn’t do a huge amount in the M role of Arthur, he is great whenever he is on screen.
Another performer who seems to be having fun is Samuel L. Jackson as chief villain Valentine, a self-confessed fan of the movies Kingsman pastiches adding an extra ‘meta’ level to proceedings.
As a whole though the cast are the ones having the most fun as, while nothing is particularly unenjoyable, I couldn’t help but feel the plot was fairly standard while Vaughan’s style of action is something that has now become fairly run of the mill and, after the well executed fight scene in the pub, nothing felt very fresh.
At the time of release quite a lot was made about some of the films less savoury humour, and one moment in particular, and, while this was a little out-of-place and off colour, it wasn’t quite as deplorable to me as some made out, though crucially it also wasn’t actually funny as it attempted to parody the innuendo heavy finale’s of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
Much like the aforementioned Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service is far from being a bad movie but just seems to be missing something, particularly as the initial premise seems to be quite a promising one.