Falling in line with over-the-top and energetic, seizure-inducing movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service takes the spy genre and turns it on its head and rather successfully at that. Instead of sticking to the basic conventions of the spy/action movie, Vaughn delivers a bombastic, highly entertaining thrill ride. Once Kingsmen catches your attention, you’ll be hard-pressed to turn away.
A parody in every sense of the word, Kingsmen, based off the graphic novel Secret Service by Mark Millar, takes everything you’ve grown to love about all those classic spy flicks and turns the dial up to eleven. Of course you still have the debonair gentlemen-spy, in the guise of Colin Firth, as the film all but presents Hollywood’s “old” spy-world vs. their “new” spy-world. The dichotomy, watching the two worlds merge and interact with one another, is an interesting one. Once upon a time, The Manchurian Candidate, starring Frank Sinatra, was American audiences’ sole exposure to the world of martial arts.
Movies have evolved a great deal since then. Nowadays, action movies tend to include fast-paced, highly choreographed fight sequences. Such is the case with Kingsmen, as the hyper-violent shootouts and fistfights take place at a hundred-miles an hour, in a manner like Vaughn’s Kick-Ass or even Timur Bekmambetov’s grittier Wanted. In turn, the audience actually gets to see what’s happening. I’m looking at you Bourne Identity.
Matthew Vaughn wrote alongside screenwriter Jane Goldman, along with Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, in composing this highly self-aware movie, littered with numerous genre clichés. Meta in its design, movies of Kingsmen’s ilk are sometimes a risk; audiences don’t always respond well, or at least know how to respond, to a movie that doesn’t stay within the conventions of its genre. I experienced something similar after I went to see Hot Fuzz for the first time. I discovered that while some “got” it, others couldn’t get on board with the movie and found themselves befuddled by an action movie cleverly poking fun at other action movies.
When it comes to casting, they hit the nail on the head by getting Colin Firth. The man simply exudes confidence and gentlemanliness and is the perfect teacher for the permanently smirking, wisecracking, Eggsy, played by relative newcomer Taron Egerton. The back and forth repartee between Firth and Egerton is perfect, as the two actors play off each other with a humorous grace. Mark Strong tactfully supervises Eggsy’s training, all the while oozing dry wit. The inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson, the story’s hemophobic villain with an awful lisp, only adds a distinct and outrageous air of campiness that many action movies sorely lack.
The movie is unapologetic in letting audiences realizing just how ridiculous spy movies actually are once you think about it; virtually every James Bond movie is balls to the walls insane. Even the carnage-fueled action scenes are approached with a style of humor that doesn’t instill the viewer with feelings of morbidity. Kingsmen: The Secret Service demands your attention from the beginning. While some might have difficulty appreciating this gem of film, the Kingsmen’s ludicrous nature is what makes it so great.