If you were hoping to see an edgy, thrilling, and risk-taking film this Valentine's Day weekend and stumbled into the woefully flaccid Fifty Shades of Grey, then you simply stumbled into the wrong film.
It's not too late.
Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons spy comic book series Kingsman: The Secret Service is a playful, smart, and surprisingly hearty spy adventure that never takes itself seriously and from the get go announces itself as an over-the-top, relentlessly hardcore spoof of everything from Bond films to hypocritical American churches to corporate and national leadership and much more.
This may not completely surprise you if you're aware that director Matthew Vaughn also helmed Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, the former, in particular, being reflected in this film's picking up of the moral compass and heading the opposite direction.
The film stars Colin Firth as Harry Hart, aka Galahad, a bespectacled senior agent with the mysterious Kingsmen whom initially seems like the kind of old chap you'd find stamping confidential papers behind some dusty old desk while the younger spies have their ways with evildoers. Then, we're introduced to his unique brand of saving the world, and letting off some steam, when he encounters a group of hooligans and, in part Bond and part Austin Powers, has his way with them.
While I can' quite convince myself to say that Kingsman: The Secret Service is a perfect film, it's the kind of film for which perfection should never be the goal. It's easily the most actual fun I've had in a movie theater in quite some time, though its stylings, abundance of violence, and skewed sensibilities may prove to be offensive to more than a few.
Taron Egerton is "Eggsy," who himself is closer to hooligan when tapped by Galahad as a candidate to fill a vacant spot amongst the Kingsman corps. He thusly endures a lengthy but entertaining series of life-threatening tests and stunts designed to eliminate the weakest and identify the best candidates, but as entertaining as these sequences are it's when it's all over that the real fun actually begins.
As the narcissistic billionaire bent on saving the world his way Valentine, Samuel L. Jackson tackles a role that seems almost tailor-made for him and that he could do in his sleep. Instead, Jackson is wide awake and brilliant as the lisping, baseball capped egocentric with a plan that he's absolutely sure will work if the world's leaders will sign on for it. Jackson gives a brilliantly inspired performance that makes you wonder if he had as much fun making it as we do watching it.
Algerian actress Sofia Boutella is awesome as Valentine's right hand, Gazelle, a lethally legged wonder with Pistorius-inspired limbs and a willingness to use them for evil. There's a handful of other inspired supporting performances from the likes of Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson and, in a rather inspired bit, Mark Hamill cast as Professor Arnold, a character whose name really is Mark Hamill in the comic book series.
So, there's that.
Vaughn tosses in a few celebrity cameos, some inspired and some not so inspired, including the likes of Brit songstress Adele, American songstress Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and even Elton John. The use of music is beyond inspired, ranging from K.C. and the Sunshine Band (look it up if you don't know it), to Iggy Azalea and more.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is the kind of film that leaves you wondering just how far Matthew Vaughn is willing to go with it all, then he goes even further. The film is action-packed, violent, immensely fun, and sharp in its wit and dialogue.
Unfortunately, I know the truth. You're going to go see Fifty Shades of Grey anyway. You simply can't resist the societal urge to see something so uninspiredly naughty. Well then, once you've shuffled out of that under-stimulating mess mumbling to yourself "Why did I waste my money on that drivel?" why not rediscover your mojo with a film that really does what it promises.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic