The kinetic super-spy caper ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ will serve as a boisterous blueprint for those teen fanboys out there that will fancy an elaborate overload of James Bond-esque high-powered hedonism. It certainly does not hurt that the high-wire hysteria as showcased in the twitchy ‘Kingman’ is based upon the acclaimed comicbook series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Also, add into the mix the movie-making overdrive pedigree of director Matthew Vaughn (‘Kick-Ass’, ‘X-Men: First Class’) and slick, cheeky spy-spry send-ups that recall the over-the-top espionage genre and its exaggerated suspense-driven foundation. Well, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is a cockeyed, pulsating parody that works its ultra-violent magic for the Austin Powers crowd that wants to walk on the high-octane wild side of Bond’s universe.
Sure, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ has its iffy moments where the blatant sexist overtones, magnified violent sequences and a generous bloody bounce of excess will have some stomping their feet in sheer indignation. The apparent knock on ‘Kingsman’ will be its robust ridiculousness and familiarity in Vaughn’s ‘Kick-Ass’ cartoonish vibe. However, the same elements that may cause some reservations with the film’s low-brow lunacy is also the same ingredients that trigger ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’s carousing charm in majestic mayhem.
The grand gimmick behind behind kick-starting ‘Kingsman’s go-for-broke rollicking is casting the sophisticated presence of the Oscar-winning Colin Firth (‘The King’s Speech’) as dapper Harry Hart (aka ‘Galahad’), a polished and prominent superspy for a British secret intelligence society. Hart’s top-secret spy network is headed up by Arthur (Oscar-winner Michael Caine). The secretive operation is based out of a notable tailor’s shop known as Kingsman. Also worth noting is that all the secret service agents are named after the famed knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. Go figure. In any event, the suave Harry Hart is the debonair face of the spy organisation and will play a critical part in both recruiting a young up-and-coming agent with decent physical skills and tracking down a worldwide menace bent of destroying the planet. It is all in a day’s work for the skilled, well-dressed licensed-to-kill operative.
Hart, who had been loyally connected to a fallen colleague from a past mission gone disastrous years before, decides to become a mentor for his late co-worker’s troubled son Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (played by newcomer Taron Egerton) whose law-breaking conduct catches the attention of the police. Feeling a sense of responsibility for his deceased spy buddy’s wayward kid, Hart takes Eggsy under his wings and determines to shape the misguided youngster into resilient Kingman stock. After all, Eggsy has the needed physicality (we are told he is an exceptional gymnast) and roguish spunk to join the ranks of the seemingly understaffed spy outfit. Soon, Eggy and other recruits will be grilled through rigorous training from Kingman member Merlin (Mark Strong) as they look to fill the spot vacated recently from the dead Lancelot.
The dearly departed Lancelot, it turns out, was the latest victim of ruthless criminal mastermind Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). The flashy Valentine, a billionaire gone bonkers, hopes to control the world’s climate change. He is known as a mega-wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist but his sinister heart yearns for some heavy-handed dastardly deeds that puts him on the immediate radar for Hart and his crafty Kingsmen to spring into action. At the demented Valentine’s side is the deliciously disabled exotic henchwoman Gazelle (Sophia Boutella) with the treacherous knack for disarming her adversaries with blazing blades.
The bombastic and eye-pleasing ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ sets out to have one goal in mind: to highlight its thunderous homage to spygate spectacles that salute everything from the Agent 007 flicks and related free-wheeling 60’s fare such as the ‘Matt Helm’ and ‘Derek Flint’ spy franchises to the recent espionage vehicles that invite the millennium-based harried heroes such as the Jason Bournes and Jack Ryans of the world into the frenetic fold. It is fast, furious and unapologetic in its rambunctious spirit as a ricocheting romp.
Vaughn, in all his rousing Tarantino-esque tactics, unleashes a visceral assault that is visually wrapped in his escapist package of an adrenaline rush. Wisely, Vaughn incorporates some of his ‘Kick-Ass’ colourful calisthenics to arm his playful spy yarn. As the veteran spygame squires, both Firth and Caine are game for the frolic they signed up to participate in with puckish aplomb. Jackson brings his usual explosive badass persona to the table as the villainous fashion plate Valentine. The 14 year-old males will draw their adventurous inspiration from Egerton’s junior spy Eggsy Unwin. Some may become nostalgic when uncovering the likes of spotting ‘Star Wars’ icon Mark Hamill as an imperiled climate changer scientist caught in the crazy clutches of Jackson’s diabolical antagonist.
Although not the most inventive take on ridiculing the spy genre with over-extended finesse and sensationalism, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is still a preferred jolting distraction at the beginning of an early stillborn movie season.
Kingman: The Secret Service (2015)
20th Century Fox
1 hr. 40 min.
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong and Sophia Boutella
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Spy Thriller/Action & Adventure/Fantasy & Action
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015