Main cast: Colin Firth (Harry Hart/Galahad), Taron Egerton (Gary “Eggsy” Unwin), Sophie Cookson (Roxy), Mark Strong (Merlin), Sofia Boutella (Gazelle), Edward Holcroft (Charlie), Mark Hamill (Professor James Arnold), Michael Caine (Chester King/Arthur), and Samuel L Jackson (Richmond Valentine)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Kingsman: The Secret Service revolves around a bunch of independent British-accented agents who believe that the world is best served by men committing extreme violence while wearing dapper Savile Row suits. One of them, Galahad – oh yes, these guys give themselves codenames after King Arthur and his entourage – is haunted by the fact that one of the new recruits who would go by the codename Lancelot died during a mission due to an oversight on Galahad’s part. He gave the late dude’s family a medal with a phone number to his tailor store – just say the codename, and he’d be there to do the family a favor, whatever it is.
That Lancelot’s son, Eggsy, eventually grows up to be some loser who wears baseball caps and acts like he’s trying very hard to look like Macklemore. Also, the actor Taron Egerton is far too old in the face to be rocking that look, so he just looks absolutely ridiculous way too often. Eggsy is all mean and angst-ridden because his mother shacks up with some local gangster dude who beats her up and such, and one day he ends up in jail after an altercation with that man’s followers sees him crashing a stolen car into a police vehicle. He calls the number.
As timing would have it, Galahad has just lost another Lancelot. So, who better to take over than Eggsy, right? Right away, Galahad can tell that Eggsy is brimming with potential, talent, awesomeness – it’s all in the script, so just go along with it – and getting hauled into jail is, of course, always a sign that a fellow is disciplined enough to be a secret agent and save the world. Eggsy is soon pitted against snob recruits from Oxford, Cambridge, and such, but we all know that high education is for losers, so Eggsy will show them that middle-class violent men who can’t hold a job are the real heroes who would save the world and tup Scandinavian princesses right in the arse.
The enemy here is Richmond Valentine, an American billionaire who decides that humans are killing this world, so he’d launch a plan that would kill all humans except for his friends and the rich people of this world. Of course, such attitude cannot be tolerated, so our hero is on the job to save the world… that is, after he survives his recruitment process. Assisting Richmond is Gazelle, a woman with prosthetic feet that come with sharp blades.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a… well, serviceable big dumb movie, but – and this is a very personal “but” – Taron Egerton has a face that makes me want to take a canister of black paint and spray on the screen over it. Every time I look at his face, I see a young Jon Voight crossed with a mid-bloat Leonardo DiCaprio, and I have an irrational dislike of how Jon Voight looks and talks as well as an inability to appreciate Mr DiCaprio’s looks at all. I really dislike looking at the main actor, and my enjoyment of the movie is affected as a result. Why can’t they find someone else to play that role?
The script is over the top, ridiculous, sexist, and politically incorrect, which means it would be fun under usual circumstances. Here, however, I find myself quite bored with the whole thing. The problem here is that much of the dark humor or over the top violence feels like they have all been done before and I’m not getting any urge to be at the edge of my seat. The violent moments – of which there are many – are swift and stylized, to the point that they feel too stylized and artificial to be enjoyable. The CGI is sanitized, the added blood looks really fake, and I find myself missing Quentin Tarantino.
The script is horrifically dark, which means there are many opportunities to make me either laugh or squirm, but the movie seems hesitant to revel in these things. For example, they have church members slaughtering one another and later be slaughtered by Galahad under the control of Richmond Valentine’s chip – but the movie dares not offend people that much, so we are talking about a hate-mongering church here. As a result, not only does this feel like a cop-out, the otherwise hilarious juxtaposition of the song that plays over the scene and the nature of the scene doesn’t work as well as it could have. The movie aims to deliver little mosquito bites of dark humor and opting for safe deliveries instead of reveling in its satirical and vulgar nature.
It doesn’t help that the usual scenery-chewers are doing the same thing here. Samuel L Jackson is doing the same thing he did in his last few roles – the same style, mannerisms, swearing – so he’s as predictable as can be. Michael Caine is playing Michael Caine. The plot unravels predictably, everything falls into place like I’d expect it to, so this is one movie that needs to be over the top campy and absurd to stand out from the rest. But the movie doesn’t dare to be campy and absurd enough to do so.
As a result, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a watchable big dumb movie that has a script and premise which requires it to try to be more than just a big dumb movie. The disconnect is pretty obvious, and the movie is nowhere as good as it could have been as a result. Oh, and Taron Egerton, ugh. He has a nice body, but that face needs a paper bag over it.