Tuesday, 3 February 2015
FILM REVIEW: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
20th Century Fox Films
Remember when James Bond films were fun? Kingsman: The Secret Service does. There's no dark and brooding British agents in this comic book adaptation by Matthew Vaughn, the same director who also lightened-up the superhero genre with 2010's Kick-Ass.
Not surprisingly, both Kick-Ass and Kingsman are adapted from graphic novels by Mark Millar, and as he did with that previous film, Vaughn injects some much needed youthful exuberance and irreverence into the secret agent genre.
In Kingsman, the name given to a clandestine British spy organisation headed by Arthur (Michael Caine), young hooligan, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), is taken off the streets and transformed into a suit-clad spy. "Like My Fair Lady?", the diamond-in-the-rough suggests to his surprised yet unflappable mentor, the very Henry Higgins-like Harry Hart, code-named Galahad (Colin Firth).
Harry actually inducted Eggsy's father into the Kingsman, an experiment (the 'working class' aren't considered Kingsman material) which goes wrong in the film's opening scene. But in Eggsy Harry sees both redemption and potential. Despite his dabbling in petty crime and drugs, Eggsy is a good egg, and Kingsman material, however raw. A former school gymnastics champ and marine drop-out, Eggsy is also loyal-to-a-fault; lion-hearted in the protection of his mother, who has shacked-up with a low-level crim, and baby sister.
Cue training montages where the wheat is sifted from the chaff and the English cream rises to the top, and it's not always those of aristocratic stock (Vaughn, Millar and co. are effective if not subtle in their dissection of British class warfare) or in possession of male genitalia; the best Kingsman candidate in Eggsy's induction class is Roxy (Sophie Cookson).
Like all spy films there is an ego-maniacal, larger-than-life villain with an evil plan for world domination. Or in the case of communications billionaire, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), population control. Convinced that the effects of climate change are irreversible, Valentine plans to counter the impact by reducing the world's population via means of a cleverly technological but not-so democratic process.
Firth and Jackson, both having fun in their respective roles, make for excellent adversaries, and Egerton is a cocky yet appealing protag (both in attitude and aesthetics). Mark Strong is also good as Kingsman's Scottish tech guy, Merlin, and Sofia Boutella makes an impression as Valentine's 2.I.C, Gazelle, the fiercest henchwoman since Grace Jones in A View To A Kill (1985).
Not nearly as violent or controversial as Kick-Ass (there's no c-bomb dropping, gun-wielding little girl), the level of violence and language in Kingsman: The Secret Service ensures that the younger (male) demographic it is aimed at won't necessarily be able to see it, certainly not without an adult companion.
But adults, particularly those who enjoyed Cold War-era Bond films, and more so those at the preposterous end of the spectrum, will no doubt watch on in giddy delight.