Kingsman: The Secret Service
Who could ever miss a film with a legless villainess and Colin Firth converting Julie Andrews’ umbrella into a killing machine?
Directed and co-written by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is the first film of 2015 that qualifies as magical, inspirational and outright fun. Following on the heels of his previous noteworthy films, Mr. Vaughn has succeeded in once again bringing us a movie that both taunts you with a barrage of violence that simultaneously leaves a smile on your face.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is in reality a recreation of the Knights of the Round Table in the form of a clandestine British Secret Service designed to keep peace in the world. Unknown to everyone but themselves, they are forced to occasionally find new replacements when old colleagues are eliminated in the name of duty.
When Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is literally cut in half by an unknown female assassin, the organization seeks recruits from which a replacement can be found. Under the leadership of Arthur (Michael Caine), the group of young potential Kingsmen are put through a series of rigorous tests led by Merlin, played with typical urbane style by Mark Strong.
One of the newcomers is known as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a son of Lancelot who is sponsored by the most stylish of all Kingsmen, Harry Hart/Galahad. Played totally out of character compared to his marvelous prior performances, Colin Firth is again a joy to watch as he tries to help Eggsy overcome his back street upbringing.
While a sub-text to the entire plot, the training of the future Kingsmen provides a fun ride in and of itself. The competition is fierce, and the battle comes down to Eggsy and the energetic Roxy, played with flash by Sophie Cookson. The victor will be the one who shoots the pet dog given to them in training, bringing unknown consequences that will both reward and horrify you. (Spoiler Alert – Don’t worry!)
However, the Kingsmen as well as the entire world face devastation from the billionaire Valentine. This nasty character is attempting to solve the world’s population problem by releasing a substance that will cause everyone to kill the person next to them. Valentine’s experimentation leads to some extraordinarily violent moments, which includes seducing Galahad into wiping out a church full of right-wing extremists in Kentucky. It isn’t easy to watch though you remain captivated by the struggle.
Just as he did in Django Unchained (2012) where he played a racist right hand man of DiCaprio’s plantation owner, Samuel L. Jackson is magnetic as the demented Valentine. He is wealthy, smart and at times quite comical, and he creates a sinister presence that forces you to smile given his lisp and a penchant for wearing baseball caps. On top of that, wait until you see the dinner he has prepared for his nemesis, Galahad. It is the crowning moment of a film filled with humor.
Though I briefly referred to her earlier, Valentine is helped with the aid of his right hand woman, Gazelle. Missing both of her legs at the knee, she sprints, jumps and tumbles on a set of springs reminiscent of those worn by the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. There are a lot of unforgettable moments in this fine film, and Gazelle adds to that list as if she is the daughter of the Wicked Witch seeking to kill Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Among the many strong performances in this creative cinematic fun ride, none is better than that of Taron Egerton as Eggsy. He has to mutate from a street urchin to a replica of his mentor, Galahad, and he is a pleasure to watch at every turn.
For those of you still harboring a bit of doubt, think of the prior films that Mr. Vaughn both produced and directed ranging from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), Layer Cake (2004) and X-Men: First Class (2011). Mr. Vaughn is an important presence in that he understands that good movies entertain while they proceed to knock you off your feet.
So buy a ticket, strap yourself into your seat and don’t overlook a soundtrack that ranges from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird to Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing. You cynics are going to be surprised!