Friday, February 20, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

I have a confession to make; I'm not much of a fan of spy movies, and I've never seen a James Bond movie I can honestly say I liked. I saw the trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and I was torn. It looked funny, but it also looked too much like a James Bond rip off for me to enjoy it.  I watched it anyway, and it was nothing like I expected. It's a very tongue-in-cheek spy movie that both satirizes Bond movies and acts as an innovative action spy movie.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth), code named Galahad, works for a top secret spy organization called The Kingsman. When one of Hart's compatriots dies in a failed attempt to rescue scientist James Arnold (Mark Hamill), The Kingsman have an opening in their ranks. Hart recruits Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) an unrefined but promising street kid, and son of a former Kingsman, into the agency's ultra-competitive training program. During Eggsy's training, internet billionaire and philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is reaching out to politicians, celebrities, and other persons of status to support him in his idea to put an end to global warming which correlates with his promotion of SIM cards that will provide the world with free internet and phone service. Concerned about the connection between Valentine and the death of his compatriot, Hart discovers a global threat behind Valentine's seeming generosity. Can Hart whip Eggsy into proper gentleman and spy to help save the world?
Kingsman was a ton of fun. It's almost like Men in Black meets James Bond but without aliens. If James Bond were completely rebuilt from the ground up for this generation, we'd have Kingsman. The movie both makes fun of spy movies while paying homage to them. It's self aware and makes literal references to spy movies. In some scintillatingly well done dialogue between Hart and Valentine, they say something to the effects of "If this were a movie, wouldn't [insert spy movie trope here] happen?"  This is followed by "This isn't that kind of a movie." And then they'd do something outside the usual structure of a spy movie. They really push on the fourth wall without actually breaking fourth wall in the interest of commentating on the spy movie genre. It gets a bit meta and self-referential without such commentary seeming out of sorts with the story itself.
Further homage include Valentine being made of the same stuff as a James Bond style villain but with a modern flair. He's got weirdly endearing quirks; he has an odd lisp, pays for all his ridiculous gadgets with his inheritance and earnings through online business, and he can't stand the sight of violence and becomes ill at the sight of blood. He's even got a ridiculous henchman; an amputee woman named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who wears bladed prosthetic legs. It's just like an over the top James Bond Villain, but modernized, silly, and interesting.
Hart is positively delightful. He's a superbly proper British gentleman with a crisp Queen's English accent. He's dapper, well dressed, eloquent, and can fight amazingly well. He's the kind of gentleman who would hold the door open for a lady and kick the trash out of her scumbag boyfriend. This was perfectly played out by Colin Firth, he seemed practically tailor made for the role. The role of Eggsy was also good, I've never heard of Taron Egerton before, but he was excellent, and I expect to see him in a lot more movies in the furutre. He played a streetwise petty thug with a chip on his shoulder and a thick cockney accent, and he allowed the character to develop and grow gradually and become a likable character. He's not terribly deep, you can't help but root for him.
The action is very intense in Kingsman. While there are moments of rising and falling action, the action rarely lets up. It's the action and some language that give the movie its R rating. Some of it is fairly cringe-worthy, but the camera doesn't dwell on the shots of gore hardly at all. It gives you just enough time to register what happened before moving on to another shot. This made it more watchable, I think, but no less shocking. But even some of the violent imagery tends to be hilarious at times. The action scenes were well choreographed and captured on camera. There's some shaky camera work in a few action scenes, but it was reasonably well done; the camera followed the action well enough to know what was going on without making me motion sick.
I thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was very enjoyable. Non-stop action, fun characters, a witty script full of commentary on spy movies, self-referential comedy, and lots of laughs. I'd say this wasn't a deep movie if not for the meta-spy movie quality it has, that makes Kingsman work on the level of a simple action movie and on the level of an interesting critique of the genre. I was both laughing and sitting on the edge of my seat throughout. This works well as a self contained story; there's no open end for a sequel to follow. I liked it enough to want to see more, but I don't think a sequel is necessary. Leaving this as a one off movie would be just perfect. If you do not like violent films or are put off by profanity, you won't like this one at all. But it that doesn't bother you too much, I recommend seeing this movie. I enjoyed it enough to want a copy on blu-ray once it's available.

Can you think of another good meta-movie? Surely there are others. Comment below and let me know!

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