Before attending the free screening for the espionage-comedy infused Kingsman: The Secret Service, I was excited to see Colin Firth in his first action role. Contrasting his more serious and “action-less” films, I could not imagine Firth flipping and fighting all over the place until I saw the trailer. With that first impression, I could not wait to see the movie, which opens on February 13 in theaters nationwide.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, who’s known for directing X-Men: First Class, this comic book adaption of suave spies and over-the-top villains uses the 007 thriller formula and takes it to a more playful extreme. Playing the immaculately styled spy, Colin Firth’s Harry Hart becomes a mentor to a troubled, streetwise kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton). He gives Eggsy a chance to become a “gentleman spy” in a secret organization called the “Kingsman,” which is appropriately disguised as an elegant menswear store. With a troubled mother and her violent boyfriend, Eggsy decides to join.
At the same time, the organization must recruit new members to help stop Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a ridiculous villain with a never-ending lisp and a fear of blood. Nevertheless, he plans to wipeout the majority of society and only save the rich to “restore” order in the world. Valentine enlists the help of Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), an assistant with blade-like prosthetic legs who murders a Kingsman spy and kidnaps a professor, forcing the Kingsman to search for new recruits.
Under the leadership of the enigmatic Arthur (Michael Caine), Eggsy is thrown into a series of challenges along with others to see who survives. Throughout the testing, Eggsy befriends Roxy (Sophie Cookson), and they are quickly the last ones standing. However, they both are forced to help stop Valentine and Gazelle, whose devious plans are set in motion.
In comparison to 007, this film uses a more cartoonish, pop-styled action that is prominent in many of Vaughn’s projects. I must say that some scenes were pretty gory and sometimes unnecessary; nevertheless, this did not stop me from staring in awe of Firth’s fighting scenes. Who knew Firth could look like he’s been fighting for his entire film career?
I really gravitated toward this old-school meets new-school approach. By maintaining the characters’ British etiquette with a tinge of exaggerated but playful dialogue, it separated the overall seriousness that defines the archetypical Bond movies. In certain scenes, I was weary of moments that may categorize it into the family-friendly zone of Spy Kids. But I was relieved when British wit was substituted for clichéd lines that are constant fillers in many other movies.
What really shined was the relationship between Eggsy and Harry Hart. With a newcomer like Taron Egerton, there is always a risk taken that can potentially destroy the movie’s substance. I am not saying Egerton was completely amazing; however, he did not disappoint. Throughout the movie, Harry becomes a father figure to Eggsy. Halfway into the movie, both actors do well at tugging the heartstrings of the audience.
A difference that I was pleasantly surprised by was the absence of romance. In 007, James Bond always has a love interest. However, Kingsman changes up the formula and shows how Eggsy and Roxy merely stay friends throughout their mission. For the majority of the movie, I was predicting that Eggsy and Roxy would fall in love during a life-or-death situation. Yet, the focus remained on the mission and there was no pressure to create a deep romance out of thin air. Although the action sequences were obviously far-fetched, the movie maintains a degree of realism in this sense. Like, who has time to fall in love while a villain is trying to kill you?
Last, Samuel L. Jackson and his character left me with a bittersweet impression. In order to get a grasp of his character, think of him as a 007 genius, murderer combined with the outlandish tendencies of an Austin Powers villain. On one hand, I found his lisp somewhat annoying at times; nevertheless, it gained laughter from the audience who probably appreciated it more than I did. On the other, I really enjoyed his phobia of blood and affinity for McDonald’s burgers and fries. Overall, his nonsensical and random acts were more enjoyable than his practiced, over-the-top speech impediment.
What I really appreciate about the movie is its divergence from 007. Since the majority of the actors are British, there were certainly comparisons being made between the two. Nevertheless, it does a nice job of mixing humor with action and seriousness with wittiness. There are moments where the story drags or portions that are excessive. Yet plot twists help provide the needed momentum to draw in the audience once more. In all, the movie does well at telling a story that could have easily become a pure “chick-flick” or just another spy movie for teens. I do warn that the movie is rated R and divulges in some inappropriate content. Other than that, I did enjoy Kingsman: The Secret Service. It gives a whole new meaning to what defines a gentleman spy.