Much like director Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 film “Kick-Ass,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” portrays extreme violence with a perverse kind of glee. It’s total escapism, a self-aware spy film that discards strict logic and complex characterization to revel in the sheer lunacy of its plot.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
20th Century Fox
Rave and Quality 16
Up-and-coming British actor Taron Egerton (“The Smoke”) plays Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a young man with a disregard for the law following his departure from the Royal Marines. One day, when Eggsy is arrested, he calls Harry Hart (Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”), an old family friend who introduces Eggsy to Kingsmen. Kingsmen is the secret intelligence agency where Harry and Eggsy’s late father worked, and Eggsy agrees to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a spy.
At 129 minutes, “Kingsman” is a bit long for a fast-paced action movie because it crams a dozen plots into one film. A large section is devoted to Eggsy’s journey through Kingsmen’s dangerous training program, where he meets other young men and a woman, Roxy (Sophie Cookson, “Moonfleet”), who’s presented as a love interest, though the hints of sexual tension never build to a head. The film also touches on Eggsy’s desire to protect his mother and baby sister from his lewd, abusive stepfather. On top of all that, there’s Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”) as the film’s villain, Richmond Valentine. With some plot threads being dropped, others petering out and others being relegated to a mid-credits scene, the film feels overstuffed and unfocused.
Despite these issues, the film succeeds because of how undeniably fun it is — to the point that its problems are rendered almost entirely unimportant. Jackson plays Internet billionaire Valentine with hilarious idiosyncrasies, like an obnoxious lisp and a disgust for blood and gore, despite his love for wreaking havoc and provoking violence in others. Valentine’s insane plot involves solving overpopulation by triggering violent impulses in humans through their cell phones, so several scenes depict mass displays of violence as everyone attacks one another with a feral desire for death.
Vaughn shoots these Tarantino-esque scenes of brutality with dizzying speed, tilting the camera and making swift pans while still orienting the viewer in space so the action rarely descends to shaky cam. Hart is a fun character to watch, as several scenes allow him to basically go crazy with well-choreographed battle moves, and Firth portrays him as a fussy upper class British citizen whose deadpan delivery of profanity creates big laughs. Egerton too is an unexpected treat, a sort of audience surrogate who bubbles with sarcastic jabs and frank comments about how unbelievable everything is. Eggsy keeps his cocky persona likable with his sense of humor and an interesting quirk: He can’t stand to watch animals die.
In the end, “Kingsman” is primarily worth seeing because of how hilariously it basks in the glory of bloodshed. One third-act scene in particular features an act of violence that, unlike some of the bloodier scenes from earlier on, depicts death as a fantastic rainbow of colors in an awe-inspiring climax. It’s pure insanity, which makes it the most fun spy movie in years.