Movie a Day Blog is a fan of British filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, despite his excesses in violent gore. He possesses one of the darkest senses of humor around, as evidenced by his directorial resume: LAYER CAKE (2010), KICK ASS (2010) and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011).
Both his virtues and his defects are on ample display in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (2015, Theatrical), a mostly entertaining James Bond ripoff, based on a popular comic book and given the Vaughn treatment to the max.
That means Colin Firth and his young protege (the ascension story is so familiar as to need to recap) leave innumerable bodies in awkward depictions of death; in one horrific scene, Firth lays waste to an entire congregation of worshipers. (They’re supposed to be racists, so in Vaughn’s Old Testament world, that’s sufficient reason for their individually bloody deaths).
KINGSMAN had a great trailer, and the tone of insouciant technological and intellectual superiority that is supposed to characterize the secret organization that Firth proudly belongs to and to which he recruits Taron Egerton (maybe the best thing about the movie) prevails in the film as a whole, not a common occurrence in the big-budget action film.
Furth and Egerton are part of a complicated effort to stop the mad-scientist machinations of a lisping Samuel Jackson (who never wears the same baseball hat twice in the film). His scheme is actually pretty clever: offer free Internet and mobile phone service to everyone in the world, and then fry their brains by sending out one bad-ass signal simultaneously all around the globe.
Luckily for the Kingsmen, the gadget designer for the Bond series must have had some vacation time accrued; they are kept more than adequately supplied with the latest technology for fighting crime and wowing audiences.
It’s all used to gory effect in the many spectacularly-staged fight sequences, first dominated by Furth, and then by Egerton, who proves smooth and winning in his first real movie role. He has Young Leading Man written all over his boyish and engaging face, and given the unexpected plot turn in this first KINGSMAN film, he’ll undoubtedly be back in the sequel.
Vaughn, who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman (it’s the fourth one they’ve done together), has filmic bravado to spare, and I found KINGSMAN to be stylish, funny and sometimes unanticipated, but with a sour aftertaste due to the incessant commingling of extreme violence and sharp humor.
This is the generational trend of where big-screen humor is going, with the exception of Wes Anderson and his ilk: pain and punchlines are inseparable companions these days in mass-appeal comedies; even the Melissa McCarthy working-girl movies often involve physical abuse of her ample frame.
KINGSMAN gets caught up in the usual supervillain meets superhero trope that so dominates contemporary cinema, so the end of the film isn’t nearly as much fun as the beginning, although the scene where a ballroom full of heads explode like the Chinese Olympics fireworks display is a show-stopper.
Vaughn’s gleeful embrace of a violence-driven, propulsive narrative pays off, and KINGSMAN is one of the few recent two-hour plus movies to feel reasonable paced, and not dragged out for a director’s ego.
I know this in-your-face storytelling approach is not to everyone’s taste, but these kinds of movie ( I loved the original KICK ASS) are one of my guilty pleasures, and I’m done apologizing for it. So there.