Marv Films/Cloudy Productions/20th Century Fox
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Produced by Adam Bohling/David Reid/Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughn
Based on “The Secret Service” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
People will often email me or in a phone/Skype conversation or even face-to-face ask me: how do I write my movie reviews? Do I write them right after I’ve seen a movie or do I sit and think about them for a while before writing them? Do I write reviews of every movie I’ve seen? And if not, why not? How do I decide which movies I write a review of?
My answer is probably more mercenary than most would be comfortable with and it goes like this: if I were being paid to write reviews of movies then yes, I would write a review of every single movie I saw regardless of whether I liked it or not. Because that is what I’m being paid to do. And I come from that generation where nobody really cared of you liked the job you’re doing or not. You’re being paid to do a job. You came to us for the job. Not the other way around. So do it. End of story. And before you ask; yes, it is a way of thinking I believe in and subscribe to. YMMV.
However, living in this enlightened Internet age of ours, I can write reviews on movies that I really do care about one way or another and hopefully enrich the movie education and enjoyment of those of you good enough to give valuable time out of your busy day to read these reviews. Which brings me to KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE.
I saw it about two weeks ago and as usual on our drive home from the theater, my wife Patricia asked me was I going to write a review about it and what would I say in it. I told her that I honestly didn’t know if I was going to write a review because I honestly didn’t know if I liked it or not. What KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE gets right it gets spectacularly right. But what it gets wrong it gets wrong in equal spectacular fashion. My Better In The Dark co-host Tom Deja and I talked about the movie over the phone we agreed that it’s absolutely astounding how schizophrenic this movie is. It’s actually almost brilliant in that respect. But it still left a very bad taste in my mouth after I saw it.
Internet billionaire and philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) announces a world changing plan to give away SIM cards which will grant unlimited free access and use of the Internet and cell phones. But Valentine is also linked to the disappearances of many heads of state, diplomats and VIPs. This brings him to the attention of The Kingsmen. They are an elite corps of espionage agents, based on the concept of The Knights of The Round Table. Led by Arthur (Michael Caine) who is assisted by Kingsmen trainer and technical wizard Merlin (Mark Strong) The Kingsmen uphold the highest tradition of gentlemen spies. Impeccably dressed, extraordinarily polite and sophisticated, The Kingsmen are also supernaturally lethal, armed with the most cutting edge of technology and weaponry.
The Kingsmen’s top agent is Harry Hart also known as Galahad (Colin Firth) who recruits Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, the son of his deceased partner. Harry feels he owes this to Eggsy’s dad to try and pull his son out of the delinquent life he’s heading for. There’s an opening for a new Kingsmen agent that Eggsy will have to compete with a dozen other hopefuls but Harry believes that Eggsy can do it, based on the scores he got during his time in the Royal Marines and his aptitude tests that indicate Eggsy’s I.Q. and physical abilities are off the charts.
While Eggsy is desperately trying to survive his Kingsmen training, Harry investigates Valentine. What he learns is utterly horrifying: Valentine considers humanity a virus and The Earth, being a living organism is resorting to global warming in order to kill of the virus. Much in the same way that a human body generates a fever to get rid a flu virus. Valentine’s plan is is to broadcast a signal to the entire world to his SIM cards via his satellite system. This signal will cause humanity to become homicidal berserkers and they will kill off each other enough to cause The Earth to cease global warming.
Now, I gotta be honest…that’s James Bond Supervillain level thinking we got going on here and I give credit to the writers for that. See, now that’s a plan. Batshit insane, you betchum…but you can’t beat it for creativity and ambition.
But here’s where the bad taste in my mouth comes in. And it did begin earlier with the unnecessarily dropping of the F-bomb every thirty seconds and the wretched sleaziness of the situation Eggsy’s mother finds herself in. And then there’s the already infamous slaughter in the church.
Those of who that know me and have read my reviews and stories know that I’m far from being a prude when it comes to violence or language. When it’s in the appropriate movie. While watching KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE I had a mental note pad where I was checking off the stuff I felt was Matthew Vaughn which I liked and the stuff that was Mark Millar which I didn’t like. On one hand I was getting a wonderful throwback to 1960s spy movies I was loving with all my heart. And on the other I was getting this truly vile and despicable ultra-violent, mean-spirited movie that seemed bent on sucking away all my good times. If the slaughter in the church had taken place in a Quentin Tarantino movie I wouldn’t have blinked an eye because it would have been appropriate for his kind of movies, you get me? I wanted the 1960s spy movie with Colin Firth playing a badass British secret agent who could easily give John Steed a run for his money (and what wouldn’t I give to see Matthew Vaughn writing and directing a movie with James Bond, John Steed and Harry Hart as students attending Eton) and that delightful 1960s spy movie was continually being interrupted by this really repulsive ultra-violence and vulgar language that wasn’t needed to make the story stronger because it already was strong.
I will say that KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE has some of the best and most astonishing fight scenes I’ve seen in movies recently, especially the slaughter in the church which is a masterpiece of editing. It truly has to be seen to be believed. And if anybody had told me that Colin Firth had this kind of performance in him before I saw it, I wouldn’t have believed it. He’s no less than magnificent. And Samuel L. Jackson and Sofia Boutella are equally magnificent as perfect Bond level villain and henchwoman. Sofia Boutella has bladed prosthetic legs that she uses with frightening lethality. Especially in a showdown battle with Eggsy that’s a lot of fun to watch and should be seen by those so called “action directors” working today who are so in love with their cursed shaky cam.
When KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is about Harry Hart and The Kingsmen organization it’s the best 1960s spy homage/spoof you can imagine. I would love it if Matthew Vaughn would do more Harry Hart movies or even do Matt Helm or Derek Flint movies set in the 1960s. But there’s lot of KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE that I found disappointing and sleazy. When it’s good, it’s off the chain. But when it’s not, it’s downright appalling in how far it falls away from what it could have been.