Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Directed by Matthew Vaughn. With Colin Firth, Taron Edgerton, Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Strong.
The dream-team writer-director pairing of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman with graphic novelist Mark Millar strikes again. In 2010, everyone loved Kick-Ass; those who didn’t were simply wrong. Kick-Ass was the first real example of a colourful comic book for adults, brought to life with exactly the right amount of vigour and kink. It was upbeat and light of heart, creating a cult following that made it far cooler than Batman and Superman combined. For Kingsman: The Secret Service, the band are back together for a dip into a world overstuffed with Bournes, Bauers and Bonds.
Tonally, the film feels like a contorted world of James Bond Vs Austin Powers, refereed by Guy Ritchie. There’s an audacity to the work that makes it resonate with that same distinctive tinge of rebellion that made Kick-Ass such a joyously riotous experience. Colin Firth plays Harry ‘Galahad’ Hart, a gentleman spy with good taste in suits, spectacles and violence. It is, at once, curious casting, but it also shows us how brilliant Firth would be as an alt-universe 007. Although Firth carries the film initially, the film’s focus turns to Taron Edgerton’s ‘Eggsy’, an unrefined young street kid caught between gang violence and an abusive stepfather. Through a past bond, an otherwise unlikely relationship forms, and Galahad takes it upon himself to invite Eggsy into the world of the Kingsman.
Once again, the Vaughn’s film is like a cartoon for grown-ups, with copious amounts of swearing, colour, violence and an eclectic soundtrack of familiar tunes. As he has previously shown, Vaughn is able to sprinkle magic on, what many would consider to be worn material. His film X-Men: First Class, is arguably the most entertaining of the series, mostly thanks to Vaughn’s ability to make fun happen.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time in church and witnessed many a strange occurrence, but nothing that dropped my jaw like the sequence midway through Kingsman, when Colin Firth’s ‘Galahad’ visits an extreme right-wing gathering, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a perfect example of what makes Matthew Vaughn such an exciting director. His films have a throwaway quality akin to the likes of Quentin Tarantino…but you could never actually throw them away. You sit there thinking – ‘I can imagine people hating this’, realising that the dividing line between you and them is there for a good reason.
With Samuel L. Jackson on winning form, and cheeky script that isn’t afraid to mock its own conventions, Kingsman: The Secret Service is home to a good time. It didn’t ought to work as well as it does, especially considering how well-trodden the turf it covers has become, but the elements are balanced in a rejuvinating way that encourages us to want to play along for the hell of it. 4.5/5