Culver City Observer -

MOVIE REVIEW: Kingsman:The Secret Service

 

March 12, 2015

Let's just start by saying, Colin is King! We have always known that Colin Firth is the perfect romantic leading man, the perfect "Single Man", a man among men who can tug at the heartstrings and make women swoon as easily as lead a country into battle, but who knew he was an action hero! One look at Firth in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE and it's pretty clear who the next James Bond should be. Firth is fabulous as he blends the gentility, style, propriety, manners and elegance of the perfect British gentlemen spy with the most kick-ass action imaginable as secret agent Harry Hart (aka Galahad) in Matthew Vaughn's KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. Toss in an hilarious performance by Samuel L. Jackson, some edgy action-packed bravura from newcomer Taron Egerton, the commanding precision of Mark Strong and the perfection of Michael Caine, be it shaken or stirred, one thing is for certain, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is explosive, high-octane, kick-ass entertainment from start to finish. And I want more!

With more than a touch of irreverence that tweaks the British spy genre (let's face it, the Brits really are the classiest and best spies), KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is adapted from the 2012 comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, with Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman creating a world that is ruled by elegance, taste and secrecy while embracing some tongue-in-cheek moments, toys to die for and hilarious villainy, pushing everything to the extreme outer limits with rousing success.

Harry Hart is a suave, sophisticated gentleman. Working under guise as a bespoke tailor on Savile Row, Hart is in fact a spy known as "Galahad" and the top agent in the elite KINGSMAN. Headed by "Arthur", the KINGSMAN is a centuries old organization, free from the corruption of politics and monied influence. With agents named for the knights of the roundtable, each is equal, teamwork is key. The KINGSMAN do what others cannot. 17 years ago, a recruit handpicked by Galahad, lost his life saving Galahad. Given the secrecy of the KINGSMAN, the man's widow and young son Gary "Eggsy" Unwin were unaware of what his true job was, thus on Agent Unwin's death, there was not much that could be done in terms of recognition or recompense. But, feeling the weight of his colleague's death, Galahad did the one thing he could do. He gave the young Eggsy a medal with a number on it together with a coded message with instructions that should he ever need anything, this was a one time "save".

Fast forward to the present and we see what has happened to Eggsy without a father in his life. His mother has gone to hell in and hand basket thanks to the drunks and louts she has taken company with over the years. Eggsy is a petty thief who picks pockets and fights with an elegant ease; an ease that finally lands him in jail. With nowhere to turn for help, he looks to the medal hanging around his neck. As promised all those years ago, Harry Hart appears and Eggsy is released from jail.

Seeing potential in Eggsy, and also wanting to repay Lancelot's sacrifice, Galahad takes him under his wing and brings him into the training program of KINGSMAN, which now has an opening thanks to the loss of Kingsman "Lancelot" who died while attempting to free a kidnapped scientist. Who was behind the kidnapping and why this scientist, is one of the mysteries of the film; especially when the Professor is seen walking about the streets of a university campus a few days later. Competing against upper crust recruits from the likes of Cambridge and Eton, Eggsy feels like a fish out of water, yet he has something that the others don't have, something that Galahad believes in. Going through the training program, Eggsy and the group are guided by "Merlin". As tasks are executed, recruits are eliminated, ultimately leaving Eggsy and the lone female Roxy as the final candidates.

And while our young recruits are battling for this place at the KINGSMAN table, Galahad has been battling for his life following a face-to-face meeting with Professor Arnold during which Arnold does and Galahad is severely injured. As Galahad recovers, Merlin has made some of his own discoveries about the man behind not only the Professor's kidnapping, but the disappearance of hundreds of politicians and dignitaries around the globe. That man is billionaire Richmond Valentine, a nut job if ever there was. Seems that Valentine has a plan to distribute free SIM cards to the world; cards programmed to tap into the feral survival instincts of the subconscious, sparking a worldwide killing frenzy that in his warped mind will solve global warming and essentially start the world anew. Oh. And for added fun. Valentine's sidekick is a girl named Gazelle who has two prosthetic legs a la Oscar Pistorius with one difference - her legs are tipped with samurai edged blades and her favorite resolution to any problem is slice and dice. (Told ya he was a nut job.)

With Galahad finally up and running and Eggsy right by his side privy to secret information about Valentine, it's a fight to an explosive finish on all fronts. And just what has Arthur been up to all this time?

Written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, the script is filled not only with witty repartee and tongue-in-cheek dialogue that is beyond delicious, but visual tongue-in-cheek as well. With everything from an unrecognizable Mark Hamill heavily made up as Professor Arnold (the beauty of Luke Skywalker needing rescuing is too fun) to a pithy exchange between Galahad and Valentine about 007 villains to Eggsy exquisitely commenting on the perfect martini, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is just one delight after another. Not to be missed are some laugh-out-loud funny scenes with Valentine pitching his global warming idea in the White House to a man obviously meant to be President Obama. Vaughn and Goldman also take hold of the class differences between Eggsy and the upper crust, playing to the obvious and not so obvious double entendres presented. And we're not even talking about the action yet! Church massacres with the biggest body count you'll ever see, rockets into the atmosphere, a great skydiving exhibition a la "Iron Man 3" and a climactic ending to rock your world, KINGSMAN plays like everyday is the Fourth of July (for the Americans, that is). Vaughn and company leave no stone unturned when it comes to entertainment.

Colin Firth is nothing short of perfection as Harry Hart aka Galahad. Already a master of the elegant, gentlemanly propriety of the character, Firth now adds action to his resume, subjecting himself to months of grueling training for more than 3 hours each day to master the stunt skills necessary to perfect the performance. The result is exhilarating and makes me more excited than ever to think Firth can now move into and hold his own in the action genre should he so choose. But it's the heart and paternal care and pride that Firth brings to the role that are not only especially touching in his scenes with the young Taron Egerton, but equally so in a reverse father-son dynamic in scenes between Firth and Michael Caine's Arthur. Firth is impeccable.

Who but Michael Caine could ever play Arthur? The answer is, no one. The elder statesman of authority and class but with that slight rough edge and twinkle in his eye, Caine adds a level of serious gravitas that balances some of the film's other antics.

And then there's Mark Strong. Teaming up with writer/director Vaughn for the third time, Strong is ideal as Merlin. Mentor, counselor and brilliant, Strong embodies the invincibility and magic of Merlin.

When it comes to hilarity, however, Samuel L. Jackson rules as the lisping billionaire Valentine.

Welsh actor Taron Egerton makes more than a splash as Eggsy, holding his own against not only Firth, but Jackson, Strong and Caine. His transformation both physically and in character demeanor is not only fun, but believable while Egerton embodies the best of his mentors, pokes fun at the worst of his villains and keeps that street edge of practicality. A fine fine performance from this new "prince" in the Commonwealth crown of actors.

Paul Kirby's production design is top notch, particularly with the design of the Kingsman HQ which is hidden behind secrets doors and mirrors of the Savile Row clothier. With cooler gadgets than Bond (bulletproof umbrellas, microchips that make heads explode into magnificent fireworks displays) and everything short of a phone hidden in the heel of a shoe, every moment of KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE pops with slickness and polish filled with "ooh and aah" moments that get bigger and better as the film goes along thanks to George Richmond's cinematography. Editors Eddie Hamilton and Jon Harris do exemplary work showcasing not only the physicality of the action sequences, but all the toys at everyone's disposal throughout the film.

And the clothing? Under the watchful needle and thread of costume designer Arianne Phillips, everything is tailor made and hand made paying homage to the finest tailors on Savile Row with everything from oxfords to top hats to the plaid jumpsuit styling once worn by Winston Churchill.

But then just for the fun of it, Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson top it all off with an eclectic, attitude-adjusting score and soundtrack that brings it all home.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE isn't a secret anymore. KINGSMAN is kick-ass!

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman based on the comic book "The Secret Service" by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

 

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