Kingsman: The Secret Service is a fan boy’s wish list of a homage to the Roger Moore Bond films. That’s the great thing about director Matthew Vaughn’s latest (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake), but is also its biggest problem.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young man with plenty of talent and potential, but is stuck in a rut, stealing cars for fun, spending what money he has down the local boozer, and forced to put up with his thuggish stepdad’s constant putdowns. After a run-in with the police, Eggsy is recruited by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) to join international spy agency Kingsman, where not only must he prove himself during training, he also has to survive it.
The performances in Kingsman are all solid. Colin Firth steals the show as Harry Hart. He’s suave, delivers a droll one-liner at a moment’s notice, and he’s deadly; the man can literally kick ass. While a couple of set-pieces have clearly been tinkered by CGI, Firth does the majority of his own fights. Firth, who rose to fame as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, is just as convincing and lethal as Daniel Craig’s Bond or Matt Damon’s Bourne. Samuel L Jackson hams it up as the film’s megalomaniac villain, having plenty of fun with his scenes. Valentine is text book Bond villain (including a secret underground lair), but at least Jackson gives plenty of charisma and laughs. Mark Strong gets something to do for once as Merlin, Kingsman’s answer to Q; not just standing in a lab creating lethal new toys, Strong gets in on the action as well. Sophie Cookson, as fellow recruit Roxy, gets a female supporting role where she’s not just eye candy, she’s got the brains and able to knock someone out just as well as the boys, the only problem is the film’s climax, where Cookson is literally moved out the way (Earth’s upper atmosphere – you can’t get further away!) so that Egerton can take the glory.
As for Egerton, you can’t argue that he’s got the personality to hold the film together, it’s just a shame that Eggsy has been written as a massive Daily Mail stereotype: baseball cap, hoodie, trainers, lives in a dingy London flat with his cockney tart mum (Eastenders’ Samantha Womack), and steals things because he’s bored, Eggsy is Britain’s middle class view of working class youth. Young people in this country are more complicated than that and Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (admittedly adapting Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel) took the easy way out when they came up with Eggsy.
As you would expect from the director of Kick Ass, Kingsman’s violence is over-the-top splatter. Some critics have described the gore as stomach-turning, but its larger-than-life, realism be damned gore, much like Tarantino’s Kill Bill instead of the projectile vomit inducing antics of Eli Roth’s Hostel. Kingsman’s stand out scene is what appears to be one solid take as Firth wipes out the congregation of a racist, homophobic – everything ending in ‘ist’ or ‘ic’ – church, easily rivalling the ballet style choreography of Gareth Evans’ Raid films.
Vaughn gives us a faithful recreation of the larger than life spy films that were the norm before The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale ruined the party, whilst also coming up with a few of its own ideas (the world’s population massacring each other to the soundtrack of KC and the Sunshine Band’s Give It Up). The trouble is, because Kingsman rigidly sticks to the formula we all know and love, there are no surprises, and even the script’s shock twists were done before in Bond films from years back. You have the gadgets, cars, girls, double-crossings, the henchwoman with razor sharp blades for legs, explosions, innuendos - everything you could want from a trip down memory lane, and Kingsman is a hell of a lot of fun, but it doesn’t have quite enough that’s new or never-saw-that-coming to make it something you definitely need to go and watch.
3 out of 5