The list of targets that “Kingsman: The Secret Service” brilliantly skewers (quite literally) is extensive. Politicians, the rich, climate change activists, and even a Westboro Baptist-like church are viciously and hilariously mauled in director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman’s manic world.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is equal parts hyper-violent, gory, funny, and social commentary, all done with a sadistic, gleeful grin. At the center of it all is Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, code name Galahad, who manages to be a true gentleman while surrounded by anything but class. Of course, he wears a $7,000 double breasted bespoke suit that happens to be bulletproof, which means he looks exceptionally good while doing it.
This super secret spy agency is like James Bond on performance enhancing drugs. The Kingsman are not controlled by any government, not loyal to any particular country, and function more like an independent agency whose sole goal is to protect the world from bad guys. The Kingsman are led by Arthur (Michael Caine because…duh) and every member takes the name of one of the Knights of the Round Table.
Due to the death of Lancelot, the Kingsman need a replacement to take his spot and every current Kingsman is required to find a candidate. Harry picks Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), whose Kingsman father was killed in action when Eggsy was a youngster.
Eggsy’s training, administered brilliantly by Merlin (Mark Strong), is rigorous and extremely stressful to watch. In particular, a group parachute sequence is a nail biter, especially when Merlin lets them know that one person in the group doesn’t have a parachute.
Eggsy is surrounded by proper, educated 20 year olds who mock him for being nothing more than street trash. His only friend turns out to be Roxy (Sophie Cookson), but thankfully there isn’t any forced romance here and their relationship stays strictly platonic.
Meanwhile, Harry is tracking down Lancelot’s killer, who turns out to be Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine is a crazed mix of Russell Simmons, Steve Jobs, and, well, Sam Jackson. He happily sends his evil henchman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), out to murder anyone and everyone with her prosthetic legs that also happen to be razor sharp knives.
But Valentine cannot stomach the sight of blood. He also speaks with a lisp, making everything he says riotously funny, especially the colorful metaphors that he uses in nearly every single sentence.
Herein lies most of the fun in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. Not only is it a parody of the Bond movies of the 1970s, it openly acknowledges it. In one meeting with Harry and Valentine, they opine about missing a diabolical villainous plot like in those old Bond movies. Harry and Valentine are the perfect creation of good guy and bad guy, both celebrating and mocking the movies of the past.
While it graciously cribs from tens of movies in the past forty years, one thing that sets “Kingsman: The Secret Service” apart from those films is the violence and action. This movie cooks from start to finish and after the first gory, nasty killing, the rest are child’s play. It appears, via the magic of editing and special effects, that every actor performed every single stunt which makes this surreal world seem very real.
Egerton is relatively new to movies and it’s hard to see another actor in Eggsy’s shoes. He is just the right amount of crude jackass and noble hero that it’s fairly easy to root for him. He plays a classic rags to riches character, which is highlighted via a joke about a classic movie that should bring the house down.
Samuel L. Jackson has played villains before, but nothing like Valentine. His lisp is a thing of beauty, somehow making him one of the scariest cartoony characters ever. Besides, there isn’t an actor alive that could say “Now that is a dope ass top hat” and get away it like Jackson does.
Then there is Colin Firth. Firth is so suave as Harry Hart that it’s almost unfair for other actors to even try to match it. He makes Bond seem like a brute, Bourne seem like a wuss, and Austin Powers look like a humorless buffoon (which he does well on his own anyway).
Yes, Firth has an Oscar. Forget it. This is his opus. When he disgustingly puts his unfinished beer down on a table prior to pummeling a bar full of thugs, it’s done with such brilliant precision that one wonders if he rehearsed placing that glass down hundreds of times. Watching Firth battle his way through a church full of enraged humans, all to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”, may turn out to be the most fun ten minutes in movies of 2015.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is not for everyone. It’s an extremely violent, albeit tongue always firmly in cheek, movie. It’s crass, lewd, and thumbing its nose at seemingly every special interest group on Earth. Those that can’t get over those factors will miss out on a movie that is an absolute blast to watch. It’s colorful, the production design is immeasurable, and it exudes coolness, mostly thanks to the most unexpected action hero ever, Colin Firth.