Wow, is this a lot of fun.
Somewhere around the time of the 2006 film, Casino Royale, the producers of the James Bond franchise decided it was time to modernise the series. Gone were the silly gadgets and the ridiculous plots and in was a gritty, realistic portrayal of, essentially, a government assassin and it has worked very well. Despite the odd misstep (Quantum of Solace), the new Bond films are excellent and popular.
Sometimes, though, many of us do pine a little for that old-fashioned, tongue in cheek fun. Where the gadgets were farfetched, the bad guys were over the top and the whole film was a subtle wink at the camera. Well, there’s good news guys…
In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton plays “Eggsy”, a classic London chav who loves his mum and despite his potential, is just getting into trouble. He’s bailed out by gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and offered the possibility of becoming a Kingsman, a member of an elite, independent agency of said gentleman spies. Together they are trying to stop billionaire Valentine, played well over the top by Samuel L. Jackson, from committing mass genocide.
What follows is two hours of over the top, crazy fun. Firth, in his first fight scenes outside of Bridget Jones’s Diary (seriously!), is superb and totally convincing. One of his fight scenes in particular, is as jaw droppingly good as it is brutal. Gorgeous Sofia Boutella plays Gazelle, Valentine’s henchmen with artificial legs that are also swords – awesome, I can’t believe no-one thought of this before, weapons, that look great on-screen. Newcomer Egerton is solid and likeable, playing his role in a down to Earth way that feels natural and realistic. Everything just works really well.
There’s a definite British flavour to proceedings and a British supporting cast with Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson all doing solid work (nice to see Mark Strong getting a slightly bigger role than expected too). I expect that the, in places, clichéd Britishness will play quite well abroad, for much the same reasons that Bond always did.
Is Kingsman for everyone? Perhaps not. You’ll need to suspend your disbelief, as this is not at all serious, even if it is well polished. There is a kind of lads mag humour to the film that I could see not playing well for the broadsheet crowd and Kingsman is also surprisingly violent for a 15 rated film, you can see that careful editing has taken place to get it there. Some of the Britishness stuff can go a bit too far as well, particularly the class warfare, which descends into parody at times. These are all nitpicking points though and, for me, didn’t hugely detract from a film that’s happily caught up in its own boisterousness.
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