Having already tackled his work with 2010’s Kick Ass, director Matthew Vaughn returns to the material of l’enfant terrible, Mark Millar with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Loosely based on Millar’s comic book The Secret Service, the film stars Taron Egerton as Eggsy, a London kid from the wrong side of the tracks who is taken under the wing of Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a friend of the yobbo’s father. In reality, Harry is also a gentleman spy for the Kingsman agency who set up shop, literally, on Saville Row. Harry believes that Eggsy is just what the secret sevice needs to bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, much the chagrin of it’s head of operations, Arthur (Michael Caine). Whilst Eggsy tackles his spy training head on, internet tycoon Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L Jackson) is traversing the globe looking for the rich and powerful to join him in his solution for global warming. Spoilers: he’s up to no good. Can Eggsy and Hart stop him before it’s too late? Cue a dramatic sting.
With a script co-written with his usual collaborator Jane Goodman, Vaughn’s Kingsman is an explosive and blackly humorous response to the po-faced spy thrillers such as the Bourne Trilogy (there is no fourth) and Daniel Craig’s Bond. It’s also spectacularly violent, with a large portion of that violence being dolled out at a Westboro Baptist type church scene that is equal parts vulgar and memorable. Anyone raising an eyebrow at Colin Firth being in an action film will be pleasantly surprised as he fights his way through the aforementioned scene that feels like both The Raid movies compressed down to five minutes. Egerton, meanwhile, never plays Eggsy as an over the top chav, ensuring that the audience truly invests in his growth as butt-kicking spy.
Whilst the film never lets up, there are some missteps. Kingsman was clearly filmed in the UK, and its apparent in many a scene that steps foot outside the British Isles. Admittedly not the crime of the century, but it does take you out of the film. Additionally, like much of Millar’s work, Kingsman doesn’t really have time for women. It has nothing on Kick Ass 2’s playing rape for jokes, but it’s hard not to wince when, for example, Eggsy’s mum (Samantha Janus) goes from being a strong role model for her son, to a coked up layabout as soon as her husband dies, I’m not suggesting that people are affected by grief in different ways, but the contrast is shocking. The film’s light misogyny comes to a head in a final scene joke that attempts to satirise the typical ending of a Bond movie, but instead manages to rewrite Eggsy character unnecessarily.
If you’re willing to over look these missteps, then you’ll find Kingsman to be, for the most part, a blistering, balls to the wall comic book adaptation.