Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (Demo)

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth
3/4
Some movies should be taken lightly. Films like Sin City and most of Quentin Tarantino’s work purposefully incorporate cartoonish action scenes and unrealistic yet humorous dialog scenes for our entertainment. That being said, I think the most popular character in this movie in later years will be the woman played by Sofia Boutella. Her character doesn’t have shins or feet, but instead blades that she uses to walk on, fight, and cut opponents in half. There’s also more than one scene where characters shield themselves from bullets with umbrellas. Pointing these things out should be a general consensus in how seriously this film was meant to be taken.
After making the fun and ridiculous action film Kick-Ass, and the superhero film X-Men: First Class, Matthew Vaughn seems to have combined the unapologetic bloodlust of the former and the world-at-risk plot of the latter in a homage to James Bond. Based off a comic series, Egerton’s young character named Eggsy Unwin is taken in by a group called the Kingsman, in order to thwart the efforts of the over-the-top supervillain played by Samuel L. Jackson. The Kingsman pride themselves in their gentlemen personas, but also in their fighting capabilities and sci-fi gear and weapons.
We are shown Unwin’s very unpredictable journey as he undergoes training to become a Kingsman, coinciding with the story of other agents attempting to expose the acts of Richmond Valentine (Jackson’s character). Valentine is attempting mass genocide through free hypnotic worldwide Internet access. It makes more sense as it is translated onscreen. Jackson makes for probably the film’s most interesting character, speaking in an unexpected nerdy lisp and dressing peculiarly, ironically vomiting at the sight of blood. Many of the other characters, particularly Firth’s, reveal their own comedic quirks, most of them managing to deserve their role in the movie.
Kingsman is clear in what it is and never takes itself too seriously, making many jokes about its own existence as a movie, in which many are amusing and worthwhile. It manages to not be painfully self-indulgent when engaging in the meta-humor of its own cinematic world, deserving a warmer welcome than many other comedies that attempt this. It manages to have moments of deadpan, as well as dark black comedy that at times feels out of place in all the cartoonish absurdity that is this movie.
There are countless action scenes in this movie. These scenes never bore us, and they are all very well-choreographed albeit cartoonish, but we learn quickly that that’s what Vaughn wanted. At one point there’s a long one-shot fighting sequence with Firth’s character struggling to survive. The scene is extraneously long but keeps us engaged, focusing on the one character’s personal endeavors, taking out multiple extras to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”. This properly displays the well-done filmmaking as well as the choreography of a good action film. There is some of the “shaky cam” that directors have employed recently, but they do not rely on quick incoherent images. The sequences never feel sloppy.
While the movie manages to be funny and self-aware, yet never in our faces, it can be rather overbearing in its comedic violence at times. Some of the comedic points, as I stated, are unnecessarily raunchy and dark for a movie that bears this much similarity to that of an X-Men movie. Many of the individual jokes would’ve worked in a different movie, but in this one it comes off as excessive, as if an already good movie is trying too hard. Not all the comedy works. At times this makes the film seem messy. We are able to size up the movie we are watching appropriately but it manages to defy this by occasionally acting like it wants to be something else. However, the Kick-Ass style of blood and gore in the many fighting scenes manages to earn its place however, as this movie asserts itself as a fun and charismatic yet rather adult spy/action film-homage.

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