I was thinking…
…when I settled in to watch this film the evening before its official release, that cinema hotdogs require fortitude of spirit to eat and fortitude of intestine to digest. As it turned out, little bits of both types of fortitude were also necessary to watch Kingsman: The Secret Service.
That is not to say it was a bad film. I want to make that clear right off the bat. As a red-blooded, apple pie-eatin’, flag-salutin’, God-fearin’ American male, I appreciated a lot of what this film had to offer (even if the good guys were all Brits and every “American” portrayed in it was a bad guy). It was a lot of fun. It’s just not a movie you want to watch if you’re not completely sure that shellfish you ate for dinner was fresh from the sea or not.
Kingsman jumps right into action during a raid of an unnamed Middle East stronghold in a rather humorous opening credit sequence. Galahad (Colin Firth—The King’s Speech, Magic in the Moonlight) is an agent of Kingsman (insert “Louie, Louie” joke here), a secret service agency so secret it does not operate under direct purview of the Crown. Dedicated to preserving freedom, its agents are all code named for the knights of the fabled Round Table, with Arthur (Michael Caine—Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Interstellar) at the helm.
During the raid, the newest member of Kingsman sacrifices himself to save Galahad and Lancelot (Jack Davenport—Pirates of the Caribbean). Galahad, visiting the fallen comrade’s widow, delivers a medal and tells her and her little boy, if they should need any special favor in the years to come, to call a number on the back of a medal.
Fast-forward to years later and that little boy is now a smart-mouthed but extremely loyal young man nicknamed Eggsy (Taron Egerton—nothing you’ve heard of). His mother is involved with a piece of white gutter trash who beats her and whose posse constantly harasses Eggsy and his friends. That harassment eventually leads to Eggsy being thrown into jail.
That’s when the medal comes out and Eggsy’s world begins to change.
Galahad springs him from jail and introduces him to the world his father had barely entered before his death. Offering him a chance to train and be tested alongside other youths, Eggsy seeks to fill the vacancy on the team left by Lancelot, who had been killed while trying to rescue a renowned professor and scientist, played by Mark Hamill (Star Wars Trilogy).
And it’s just getting started.
The professor was taken by a nefarious/hilarious eco-terrorist named Valentine (Samuel “Mutha-effin” Jackson—Star Wars Prequel Trilogy). Convinced humans are going to kill the planet if left unchecked, Valentine’s goal is to wipe out the majority of them and save just a scant few politicians and dignitaries from around the world who will, undoubtedly, pledge loyalty to him when the new world begins. The giant irony here is that most of the people he seeks to save are largely responsible for the shoddy state the globe is in in the first place.
And then—ahh, the heck with it. Watch the trailer.
All right. You get the gist.
But the trailer does not do justice to the level of somewhat cartoonish and often quite gruesome violence in the movie. There is a particularly involved sequence of gore and mayhem inside a Kentucky hate group church (based, I’m sure, on the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas). Nevertheless, by the film’s end, there are very few—and I mean like one or two people—who die that are worth getting upset over.
Thou hast been duly warned.
Violence aside, the movie moves very rapidly, but not with a pace as to confuse the viewer. Unlike most “origin” movies, Kingsman incorporates the training and development of the protagonist within the general fold of the narrative so well that it not only feels necessary, it is woefully short. In fact, my favorite sequence in the entire film is the skydiving portion of training. See the film and you’ll probably empathize. Within its few short minutes, one is pulled through nearly the entire spectrum of emotions that makes action movies worth seeing.
There are a few laughable premises throughout, however. But as this is a film based on a comic book written by the same team who brought us Wanted (curving bullets, anyone?) one has to kind of just shrug and say, “whatever,” and then enjoy the ride.
And if I might make a suggestion: it will help if you brush up on your BBC TV (or “tellie,” as they say across the pond) before seeing this film. And I don’t mean Downton Abbey. I mean less “refined” fare, like The Inbetweeners or maybe Doctor Who. The slang and the accents can leave many a Yankee scratching their heads. Valentine makes light of this, though, when he says, in his ridiculous lisp, “I have trouble unduhsthanding you people sthumtimesth. You all talk stho funny.”
Overall, think of the movie—and this is Hollywood pitch talk—as James Bond meets The Matrix meets X-Men: First Class (also directed by Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn). It is not hard to find all of the many, and I mean many homages, references and possibly outright thefts from those films. A jet in an underground hanger beneath the lawn of an English mansion/secret training facility? Now where have I seen that before?
Oh yeah, the same place where I heard the music from Kingsman before. The similar musical feel to the soundtrack from X-Men: First Class is due to the fact that both scores were composed by the same man, English composer Henry Jackman. But as his work in X-Men was quite wonderful, I’m not complaining. It works rather nicely in this film and I see, or rather, hear the potential for future scores in possible sequels.
Yes, there is most certainly a sequel on the horizon. There are already rumors abounding. But the co-writers Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons are realistic about the future.
Millar: “I’m a great believer of if people like it, do more, and if people don’t respond, don’t force things down people’s throats. But everybody who has seen it seems to really like it, and I think we’re quite confident that there will be more of them. If people want more, we will do more.”
Gibbons: “The reaction I’ve had from people who have seen it is they definitely want to see more. They want to know what happens next. We’ve only just got Eggsy to the point where he is a Kingsman, and what he’s going to do after that is going to be really interesting, I think.”
As long as its successors can deliver, I, for one, would love to see more Kingsman films. The potential is there for a franchise that could rival James Bond in its breadth and blow it away in its scope.
Medieval Kingsman movie, anyone?
Ammo Dump rating: 7 out of 10 lighter grenades.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Run time: 129 minutes