Action Movie Friday: Kingsman, The Secret Service

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service
MPAA Rating: R
Release: 2015
Genre: Action, Spy
Starring: Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson and featuring Mark Hamill
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $94 Million
Box Office: $405 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74%

Gingersnaps Rating: Five Cookies!

Summary:

When one of their operatives is killed during a covert operation, the Secret Service agency, the Kingsman, goes into recruitment mode. Eggsy, a chav from South London, isn’t the Kingsman organizations idea of a typical recruit. But Harry Hart who recruited Eggsy’s father into the organization almost twenty years before sees something in young Eggsy and offers him a place. As Eggsy tries to prove his place in the Kingsman agency against some of Britian’s elite sons and daughter, Harry Hart tries to track down who killed the man they’re replacing. A man whose vision for the future has gained the support of those in the highest authority and may have invaded the Kingsman themselves.

Review:

Let’s review spy movies for a while, shall we? Last week, we looked at xXx, a movie that wasn’t blatantly a satire of the spy genre. Kingsman goes for the opposite approach, it is a satire of the spy genre and makes no bones about that fact. It is brutal. It’s bloody and it is set out to spoof everything you know about spy fiction and break the fourth wall while doing so. Financially, it was such a success that it wasn’t even out of the box office before they were discussing a sequel film. Currently, Kingsman 2 is set to come out in 2017.

The interesting thing about Kingsman is that while it claims to be based on a comic book, the comic book and the film premise were conceived at the same time. (At least, according to Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar.) The difference between comic book production (3 months) and movie production (3 years) makes a huge difference. Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn really were able to do different things in the movie and the comics due to that difference of time and the differences of the mediums. They did an extra about the two and Mark Millar gave an interview. He said that at first he tried to write to the trends and then he stopped and started to write what he wanted to see and read. And by the law of averages that meant someone else would probably want to read and see it. That’s when he started to really love what he was writing. And about the same time his career took off. Coincidence, I think not.

Anyways, love what you write, put it out there, other people may love it to. It’s a happy cycle.

The love of the spy genre, even through the blatant spoofing and discussion of old spy films by the characters really shines through. The story is the coming of age story for Eggsy. (Because yes, they want a franchise.) It has a distinctly British tone in more than just the accents. There is a more muted discussion about class in the movie than there is I understand in the comics. But a definition of the class of one’s birth and the class of one’s actions is differentiated and shown. As Eggsy goes through training, he is harassed and bullied by those who were born to the noble classes. The one who sticks up for him the most is Roxanne, one of the two female candidates. And while Eggsy is training, we are shown on the other hand the megalomaniac villain’s plan with his henchman Gazelle on how he’s going to destroy the world and why.

Kingsman takes two current fears and puts them to use, the fear of global warming and a natural disaster and the fear of technology controlling our actions. If there was any truth to the idea that cellphones can give you cancer, this movie might make you want to put down your smart phone and never use it again. The plot remains just within the realms of probability so that it never feels completely over the top and throws you out of the world they’ve created. Irregardless of that, the plot is very predictable. The way they subverted the genre of the spy world wasn’t through plot events, but through the idea of seeing “James Bond at home.”

While the dialogue is very British, the humor of the film is very American. This is more, I believe, for general international audiences. The humor relies more on visual cues and carefully phrased ‘witty’ dialogue than humor geared directly at the British lifestyle and people. If you want distinctly British humor watch Eddie Izzard or Sherlock on BBC.

The story is engaging, the dialogue is fun and the plot makes sense. The Kingsman keeps this cookie.

There is an explosion sequence set to dynamic orchestral music complete with sparkling fireworks and colored mushroom clouds. This wasn’t necessary. They knew it wasn’t necessary. They did it anyways because it would ‘look cool.’ I approve. One cookie.

The fight sequences in this film are brutal and bloody. This is an R rated film and the fight sequences play out that way. If you want to see Colin Firth take on an entire church filled with people, this is the movie for you. It’s a brilliantly choreographed sequence which uses both hand to hand and guns and other weapons. There are other fights, such as the one in the bar. The church sequence is by far the best. And yes, Colin Firth knows how to throw a punch. Go figure. One cookie.

The story if this film is the story of Eggsy. However, there are two women of note in the story that I mentioned above. Gazelle, Valentine’s hench woman and Roxanne, another candidate for the Kingsman position. While not main characters by any stretch of the imagination, they are both important. While Valentine is providing the technology and charisma to move the plan forward, Gazelle seems to be the woman who has the power and the spine to go through with it. She is the woman keeping Valentine going and doing the dirty work. By contrast, Roxanne is shown to be competent and knowledgeable of the spy business and serves as a friend and a reason for Eggsy to keep going. While we’re supposed to be rooting for Eggsy, the one we really want to see succeed is Roxanne. (Or at least I did.) There is no romance, a distinct lack of the male gaze and in the end Eggsy and Roxanne ended up on equal footing with each other both doing important things to make the mission succeed. I’d like to see in future films where Roxanne came from and her story a bit more. Just for Hollywood, this is practically a glowing beacon of hope in the dark. So, I’m going to let this cookie stand.

(And as for the joke at the end with the Princess, for goodness sake, there are women that like that sort of thing. Let it go.)

The world building for Kingsman took our technology today and moved it just a half step forward in believable ways. I hope we’re close to automatic driving cars soon. Harry even says that the technology is catching up with the spy world. The gadgets were entertaining. I want some of them. Though I am not sure how a bespoke suit could be bulletproof. That’s the fashion person in me talking. Kingsman isn’t so far out there that there is too much to talk about. So, it will keep the world building cookie.

Kingsman is therefore a five gingersnap movie. It’s thoroughly entertaining if violent and brutal. It’s a great nod at the spy genre and I can’t wait for the next one. I hope Roxanne shows up more. Five whole cookies!

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