Kingsman: The Secret Service (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, R)

Kingsman 75Vaughn pushes everything to eleven to make the point that the whole concept is just silly so we might as well enjoy it.

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It would be very easy to label Kingsman: The Secret Service as simply a parody or spoof of the spy genre, but doing so would be dismissive and inaccurate. Director Matthew Vaughn’s brilliant and hilarious film is so much more than that. The film is not being “meta” with its endless references to other spy movies or the easily exploitable shortcomings of one-dimensional villains. In those moments (and there are many), Vaughn’s film is self-aware of its existence as another in a long line of spy movies, many of which feature absurd plots and ridiculous gadgets that manage to always come in handy at exactly the right moment. The difference is Kingsman acknowledges these conventions and embraces their ludicrousness.

Kingsman embraces the inherent silliness and absurdity of the genre in which it is operating both by calling attention to the conventions and lampooning them through hyper-realistic improvements. James Bond has an umbrella with spikes? Well, the Kingsman collection has a bullet-proof umbrella with transparent technology that also functions as a rifle. Vaughn pushes everything to eleven to make the point that the whole concept is just silly so we might as well enjoy it.

Kingsman is a super-secret international spy organization that has been saving the world since the 1920s. Harry Hart, a.k.a. Galahad (Colin Firth), is one of the agency’s best men, despite his less than stellar record at picking new recruits. This doesn’t stop him, though, from selecting a rather unusual candidate: Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a troubled youth from a low-income background. Harry brings Eggsy into the Kingsman training school, the most rigorous—and deadly—training program in the world.

Meanwhile, tech genius/billionaire/evil villain Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has found a way to control the population of the entire planet. When Harry catches wind of the plan, he attempts to infiltrate Valentine’s inner circle to figure out the details. Meanwhile, Eggsy is exceling in his training though his final test is one that may cost him his membership in the Kingsman.

Vaughn delivers a work that, by all appearances, should have been a disaster on par with Johnny English. But, Vaughn’s ability to make a serious movie that never takes itself too seriously is an accomplishment few directors could manage. Based on the comic book by Marc Millar and Dave Gibbons, Vaughn co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with his Kick Ass co-writer Jane Goldman. The movie is full of smart, funny dialogue with a perfect blend of witty and crude humor. The action sequences are ridiculously over the top, but endlessly entertaining as Vaughn continuously finds ways to scale up the cartoonish violence.

In what is probably some of the best casting in the last few years, every actor is fantastic in his or her role. Firth, known more for serious roles, is excellently cast as a buttoned-up British gentleman who can kick your ass seven ways to Sunday. Like Liam Neeson in the first Taken film, his standing as a legitimate actor only makes the performance more enjoyable. Newcomer Egerton pairs well with Firth as a Cockney, a brash know-it-all whose natural charm is irresistible. The very best part of the movie, though, is Jackson as a lisping egomaniac with a wardrobe Puff Daddy would envy. Valentine is in every way opposite of every Bond villain with Jackson constantly calling attention to that fact. The movie deserves to be seen for Samuel L. Jackson alone. | Matthew Newlin

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