Author Mark Miller has a habit of rounding up everything you’ve ever known or seen about a subject, mixing it all together, then re-delivering it with subversive, comic book sensibilities. He did it to superheroes with Kick-Ass and now he’s done it to James Bond and company with Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Backed by the same team that brought Miller’s Kick-Ass to the screen, Kingsman: The Secret Service is as it sounds; an organization of British, gentleman spies, all of whom appear impeccably dressed while possessing the deadliest of umbrellas. Looking like a cross between Bond and John Steed in a pair of Harry Palmer glasses, Colin Firth is secret agent Harry Hart. Hart, the quintessential gentleman spy, enlists troubled working-class London teenager Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) fresh off the council estates of Camden into the upper crust agency of Mayfair. Eggsy’s late father was once a Kingsman, and now, seventeen years later, the son is about to follow in his father’s footsteps wearing those polished Oxfords – never the patterned Brogues.
To complete the very British approach to spying, the secret organization’s headquarters is behind an exclusive tailor’s shop in upscale Saville Row. Remember when TV’s The Man from UNCLE used to enter headquarters through the front entrance of a dry cleaner’s in New York? Same thing. Being British and just a little eccentric, the code names for all agents echo Camelot, hence we have agent Jack Davenport as Lancelot, agent Mark Strong as Merlin, and sitting at the head of the table there’s agent Michael Caine as, of course, Arthur.
The diabolical, world dominating plan that always supports a spy thriller parody is fronted by psychotic maniac with a comical lisp, billionaire Richard Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). His idea is to give free phone calls and free internet for everyone, forever. Not only will it knock all other communication companies out of business, the free SIM cards buried in his cells will also control the mind of its owner, turning everyone into violent, suicidal maniacs. “We need to thpeed thingths up,” he insists when his operation to lower the world’s population doesn’t go as fast as planned.
Along with Jane Goldman’s script and true to director Mathew Vaughn’s brazen, in-your-face style, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a loud, brash, colorfully widescreen, intentionally over-the-top comic adventure that appears in the hype to be as much fun as the original Kick-Ass but turns out to have more in common with the mean and ugly spirit of the unpleasant after-taste left by the unnecessary sequel, Kick-Ass 2.
There’s something annoying about the observation that all violence displayed in films like Kingsman are simply cartoon violence, as if somehow that affords filmmakers to show the ugliest of fight sequences and say it’s really okay; it’s just a cartoon. Well, it’s not. Cartoon violence is only okay in cartoons. Showing the same thing but with humans complete with flying limbs, blood, exploding heads, sliced bodies, knives through throats and metal poles driven through skulls and coming out the other side can never look like Wily Coyote; it looks real. Admittedly it’s all preposterous and meant to be so, but it still real. And worse, for a comedy, it’s really not funny. Neither are having characters shoot their dogs as part of a training test or watching a terrified toddler scream in realistic horror as a homicidal mother tries to attack it with a kitchen knife – the sequence has the mother ripping through a locked door to get to the child thereby lengthening the scene and maximizing the child’s all too real terror. It doesn’t matter that it might all end up okay – don’t panic; there’s a twist to the dog scene – at the time of watching it, it’s ugly and it’s unpleasant.
As with the graphic, church massacre sequence where innocent followers turn on each other like the crazed, killer zombies of World War Z, or the scene where the heads of kidnapped VIPs explode like fireworks to The Land of Hope and Glory, the whole approach to everything is incredibly ill-conceived. There’s even a final scene intended to parody the end of a Bond film where, after having saved the world, the debonair agent gets the girl, complete with champagne, two glasses and an attractive and willing Swedish blonde with her butt in the air, ready and waiting, except here it’s not funny, it’s borderline offensive.
Considering how well the film has already done overseas – not to mention how terrific it looks in the trailer – I know I’m alone on this; but seriously, for a film that talks of what it’s like to be a gentleman, the last people who should ever see Kingsman: The Secret Service are gentlemen. This is obnoxious.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 129 Minutes Overall Rating: 3 (out of 10)