Kingsman poster

Kingsman: The Secret Service is really nothing you haven’t seen before.

In his latest foray behind the lens, director Matthew Vaughn (no stranger to directing “cool” movies, having directed X-Men: First Class and the film adaptation of Kick-Ass) understands this. He gets that Kingsman is influenced by and, in fact, only has a market because of the films that have come before it. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.

Rebellious young boy from humble origins is disenchanted with life.

Young boy catches the attention of a mentor.

Mentor takes young boy under his wing and puts him through an induction process to a secret society.

The secret society has various tricks and gadgets at their disposal.

A villain emerges with a plot to take over the world.

Yes, all of these things appear in Kingsman, along with plenty more cliched elements of the modern-day spy movie marketed primarily to a young adult audience.

So, you’re probably asking – “If I’ve already seen this movie before, why would I want to watch it again?” Because Kingsman, while mostly a rehashing and revisiting of old ideas, dares to add a spark to the genre that it’s been lacking for some time.

Most of the charm of Kingsman comes from the fact that it’s very self-aware. Vaughn and Jane Goldman collaborated on Kingsman: The Secret Service’s script – inspired by the Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar comic book of the same name – and are largely responsible for the hilarious and clever moments when Kingsman veers into James Bond and even Harry Potter-ish territory. Yes, there’s ink pens and cuff links that serve as both fashion accessories and secret weapons. There’s a pair of glasses that serve as a spy camera. And there’s even a Star Wars-esque moment in the film’s final act where the villain’s camp is infiltrated by flying in.

Kingsman knows you know what’s going to happen next. So rather than assume the viewer is dumb, it gives you EXACTLY what you’re expecting, but adds visual effects and somewhat original takes to make itself stand out from the pack. One especially exciting moment of the film occurs during an elimination round amongst the potential Kingsman candidates where they’re skydiving and have to figure out who amongst them doesn’t have a working parachute. It’s pretty obvious who has the “broken” parachute mid-way through the scene, but the way it all plays out, you’ll still feel a little anxious and the resolution has a predictable but nice twist.

Rather than sell itself primarily as just another a spy movie, Kingsman instead opts to be a movie quite literally about gentlemen versus gangsters. James Bond stayed in the nicest attire whenever he went off on his missions. Kingsman fits its “knights” out in the same dapper garb, with the caveat that gentlemanly deeds and presentation define their purpose. It’s fitting (no pun intended) that one of the Kingsmen’s operating bases has a tailor shop as a front.

The other part of the movie’s charm lies in its characters. All of the actors in Kingsman seem just as aware that they’re fitting into traditionally cookie cutter roles and opt instead to breathe original life into them.

Colin Firth, normally a dramatic actor, plays the mentor role of Harry Hart/Galahad quite well and shines in the film’s outrageous and over-the-top violent fighting sequences. Michael Caine also plays the mentor role here, as the director of the Kingsman, but adds a sort of snide asshole quality to the role that even Severus Snape would find appalling. Sofia Boutella, as Gazelle, is a refreshing “secondary boss”/henchwoman, though arguably she could’ve been developed more. And Taron Egerton has a breakout role as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, the rebellious teen turned hero with a historical connection to the Kingsmen and who, literally, grows before the viewers’ eyes from a boy into a man.

eggsy_galahad_kingsman

Galahad (Colin Firth) prepares Eggsy (Taron Egerton) for the world of Kingsman.

 

But Samuel L. Jackson, as Valentine, steals the movie by completely flipping your expectations of a supervillain. His plot is consistent with most Bond villains’ shtick, with a Darwinian-Noah twist of having world leaders “buy into” his plan to “save the planet” by killing off the majority of the population (with, get this, an application that provides free internet for all but subliminally triggers the aggressive instinct in the brain. Coming soon to the Apple Store, no doubt). Not to mention, Jackson dresses down rather than up. His character rocks a blazer, blue jeans, sneakers, and a fitted baseball cap in nearly every scene and he has a personality all his own. It’s a different take to see a villain express giddiness about his gadgets, yet also express the slightly remorse after killing someone.

confrontation kingsman

Galahad and Eggsy confront Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service relies on the fact that it’s “cool” and “badass” to separate it from its contemporaries. For some, that may not be enough. But if you’re willing to give it a try, you’ll find that Kingsman strikes a chord with both young adult and slightly older audiences and is very entertaining. You might not be able to teach an old spy movie dog new tricks; but you can keep the tricks and instead make the dog smart and clever as hell.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is Rated R.

Movie Review: Kingsman - The Secret Service [@KingsmanMovie #Kingsman]
7.5Overall Score