Kingsman: The Secret Service(2015)
- RatedM18 /GenreAction
Blame it on Jason Bourne.
Since 2002 with the release of ‘The Bourne Identity’, the spy movie genre has taken on a darker and grittier tone with its frenetic bare-knuckled action in realistic settings.
With a Krav Maga throat strike, Jason Bourne singlehandedly made James Bond a relic of a bygone era, Bond stubbornly clinging to life and ignoring the zeitgeist.
But if you think spy movies have become a little too serious for its own good, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ brings back the outlandish fun and irreverence, as only the British can.
This gentlemen spy genre is replete with weird gizmos, sharp suits, wit, crackpot villains – setting its sights on entertaining millennials with its streetwise savvy vibe and still pleasing the baby-boomers who are hungry for nostalgia.
NOT YOUR USUAL SPY MOVIE
To call ‘Kingsman’ a spy movie is a misnomer; rather, it subverts the genre, making fun of the original 007’s upper-crusted ideals that propelled the Bond franchise into near obscurity and then making them work again.
It is the type of movie where sharp-suited men dine on Big Macs behind closed doors and the hero orders a snootier Martini than James Bond did (gin stirred 10 times while looking at an open bottle of vermouth) before saving the day.
Very loosely based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons called ‘The Secret Service’, the movie sees Colin Firth playing top British spook Harry “Galahad” Hart, who cuts a dash serving the Kingsmen, a top-secret intelligence organisation hidden behind the walls of a Savile Row haberdashery.
The Kingsmen have recently lost one of their members during a failed operation and are looking for a new recruit.
On the shortlist is Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton). Eggsy, it seems, is cut from a different cloth from the traditional blue-blooded Kingsmen recruits, but Harry defies protocol by recruiting the lad who is the son of a dead colleague.
Tech mogul and aspiring megalomaniac Valentine (Samuel L Jackson playing a mix of hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and Dr Evil from 'Austin Powers') is hatching a plan for world domination that the Kingsmen need to prevent at all costs.
THE ACTION STAR
Who could have imagined Firth as a debonair spy? Following in the footsteps of Liam Neeson, the lovable veteran British actor plays against type, looking revitalised as Eggsy’s mentor and surrogate father figure.
He may have made a name playing poncy roles in movies such as ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘Magic in the Moonlight’, but Firth’s Harry is deadlier than he looks, capable of dispatching a gang of goons without a wrinkle on his bespoke pinstriped suit. Don’t miss Harry’s ultra-violent antics against a congregation in a church (set to Lynyrd Skynyrd's ‘Free Bird’).
Besides looking sharp in a double-breasted pin-striped suit, Colin Firth can hold his own during action scenes | Photo: 20th Century Fox
‘Kingsman’ could just be 24-year-old newcomer Egerton’s career-maker. The Welsh actor is perfectly cast as the young hero Eggsy, exuding the right combination of obstinance, rebellious streak and steely determination for someone resolute about changing his life.
Also playing against type is the brilliant Jackson. His character's evil genius gives the actor ample opportunity to play a pantomine villain, something he has not attempted before.
Sturdy support comes from Mark Strong who is ever dependable as Merlin, Kingsmen’s version of Q; Michael Caine as Kingsmen’s head spook, the inscrutable Arthur; Sophie Cookson, as Eggsy's chief competition and only friend in spy school; and Sofia Boutella, whose villainous and blade-footed Gazelle is the type of henchmen we have never seen since the bowler hat-throwing Oddjob and the steel-tooth Jaws from the Bond movies.
Firth's Harry Hart (right) shows Egerton's Eggsy new toys | Photo: 20th Century Fox
If you are familiar with director Vaughn’s work, you would know that he deals with hyper-realism. He shoots the action set pieces with enough visual flair and bombast that echoes his previous movies such as ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ (he was producer), and he mounts real-world conflicts with bruising excitement so that by the time you come to the head-exploding climax, there is an absurdist sense of peril.
The premise and action may sometimes be ludicrous, but they are all entertaining. Not to mention that the references to pop culture and other films are a nice touch. Look out for the cameo by Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker from 'Star Wars').
Briskly paced, well-acted and action-packed, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is one of those movies that doesn’t take itself seriously, and that’s what makes it work.
‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ opens 12 February 2015