With one of its agents dead, the super-secret spy organisation known to few as Kingsman is actively looking for a new recruit. A veteran agent, for his own reasons, has looked further a field than the usual high bred fare and has chosen the urban rabble-rouser, Eggsy, as his protégé, but with a mega-wealthy software developer simmering a plan to cull world population waiting in the wings, now might not be the best time for new recruits.
Becoming fast friends while developing the Kick-Ass feature film, director, Matthew Vaughn, and comic writer, Mark Millar, later decided to write a comic series that could be developed as a film simultaneously, the result was The Secret Service (later re-titled to coincide with the film), a mini-series drawn by industry legend, Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), that was a loving homage to old fashioned, over-the-top spy films.
In this reviewer’s opinion, The Secret Service (read full review) was the weakest book to come from the Millarworld imprint, and far less trailblazing and memorable than series’ that had previously seen adaptation, such as Wanted and the aforementioned Kick-Ass. Supposing fanboydom agrees with me in the general, Kingsman will be up for far less scrutiny than those other two films, and any changes made, significant or otherwise, will largely go forgiven, just so long as it doesn’t totally suck… Which it doesn’t.
That’s not to say that it’s brilliant, far from it, it’s quite a flawed film, but it doesn’t pretend to be high-cinema, so entertainment is the name of the game, and it surely does have it in that department.
Let’s just get the big moan out of the way first, some might say the most deplorable thing about Millar’s comics are the self involved pop-culture references, and while I’m not entirely in agreement with that, it can’t be denied that it is the element that ages his work the most. Whatever your stance, in her usual manner of ill-judged writing, script writer and long-time Vaughn collaborator, Jane Goldman, has incorporated elements of this referencing but in a much more watered down state, chopping off the balls, as it were, of the original story’s intention.
Such writing could be seen as slightly cowardly, if not for the fact that in other departments, Kingsman is really rather extreme, at least for a film of its genre, but this duplicity being what it is, we, at one stage, are presented with what might be one of the most cringe-worthy scenes of the year, fusing product placement that sticks out like a saw thumb and back slapping self-congratulation as the hero and villain talk about McDonalds as if it is fine cuisine (while sat in front of a heaping pile of the stuff) before discussing how spy films were much better before they took themselves too seriously. Horrible.
Conversely, for a spy film that indeed doesn’t take itself too seriously, one could even describe it as juvenile, it contains violence and language that other spy films would never try and get away with, and if there’s one thing we know Vaughn can handle well it’s a bit of violence. Here we are treated to what might be one of the best action set pieces of the year… I won’t say what the scene entails; I’ll just tell you that it takes place in a small evangelist church. These two scenes, polar extremes in their quality, kind of illustrate the movie as a whole.
It does of course feel rather ‘filmy’, a little too much so in places, robbing the ‘urban’ scenes of some of their bite, but everyone involved seems to be having a good time, with Colin Firth being most noticeable, manfully stepping away from type to a certain degree, combining his usual gentlemanly ways with a fantastically classy violent streak.
Directed better than it is written and as such being slightly superior and more memorable than its comic-series forbearer, Kingsman: The Secret Service is patchy and self-aware but popcorny fun. Turn your brain off and you should have a good time.