Co-written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, Kingsman draws its inspiration from a Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons graphic novel, but unapologetically borrows traits from a wealth of genre classics. Of course, the 007 catalogue provides structure to the main Kingsman story, right down to the presence of an over-the-top Bond-esque villain named Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a megalomaniac with a devious – and silly – plan to damage our planet.
But Kingsman is hardly a relic, a time-capsuled tribute to the spies who loved us, and if you are familiar with Vaughn’s penchant for blowing up conventional genres, then this should come as no surprise. Kingsman and its characters know that they collectively exist in a world exposed to24 and YouTube. Valentine’s scheme is as deeply rooted in society’s hunger for the next tech tool as it is in convoluted climate-control science. Eggsy and the recruits with which he competes to earn a spot in Kingsmen aren’t awed by the traps and weaponry at their fingertips, likely because they have absorbed every action movie in the Hollywood catalog and have been hoping for their own bloody adventure for some time now.
It would be easy to praise Kingsman for its breathtaking action sequences – and logical, as well. An underwater training scene and a pulse-racing skydiving sequence tweak the familiar just enough to pull your heart into your throat. Eggsy battles with Valentine’s hench-woman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), a lithe assassin whose legs have been replaced by razor-sharp swords!
They all take a backseat, however, to what will be Kingsman’s signature sequence: the Battle Royale at the South Glade Mission Church. This is one of those scenes that you will anticipate every minute until it happens – and then rewind and appreciate it the second it ends. It’s not just the vicious choreography of the scene, which is masterful. It’s the no-holds-barred approach taken by Colin Firth, displaying unexpected rage and physicality, that will pin you to the back of your seat.
But singling out Kingsman’s action, and only its action, overlooks everything else Vaughn gets right with the film. His cast is incredible, from the chemistry shared between Firth and Egerton to the priceless contributions made by brilliant character actors like Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Michael Caine. Though Kingsman has to take a few obvious steps to establish this world, Vaughn’s style – and his music selection – always keep the film rocking at an energetic pace.
This could be the start of an exciting franchise, the scrappy little brother nipping at the heels of distinguished sibling James Bond, making sure they both strive to deliver thrills while on her majesty’s secret service.
So out of a possible five stars, Kingsmen – The Secret Service earns:
Slick, polished and compelling with every minute that passes, not to mention that outstanding church scene!
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