The expectations and preferences of cinema-goers is constantly changing, meaning film is continuously going through ‘life cycles’ in an attempt to keep up with the demands of its audience. This can be measured over the years by looking at franchises like Batman (dark-camp-dark) and of course James Bond, which became increasingly silly during the Moore era, only to gradually morph into something much darker through the years of Dalton, to the current Daniel Craig. What film history has taught us though, is that there are always film-makers willing to upset the establishment, by taking the latest cinematic trends and turning them on their heads by, more often than not, taking the piss. With Bond as brooding as ever, even he falling victim to the demand for more weighty plots; Matthew Vaughn brings us Kingsman: The Secret Service, a cheeky tribute to spy-films that wears its satirical nature like a badge of honour.
At one point in the film, Samuel L. Jackson’s lispy megalomaniac, Valentine, asks Colin Firth’s secret agent, Harry Hart, if he likes spy movies; to which Firth replies in typical Bond-like fashion “Nowadays they’re all a little serious for my liking. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day”. Just one of the many not so subtle ‘wink wink’ moments that pop up during the course of the film, that also reference product placement (think fast food a opposed to Aston Martin’s and Rolex watches), as well as generic movie traps such as a villian’s tendency to give away their grand plot to the hero. This self-awareness to the point of parody is just one of Kingsman’s biggest successes, although it fortunately offers up enough action and legitimately thrilling set pieces that manage to pull itself back from being another Johnny English, or dare I even say Austin Powers.
The plot itself introduces us to the Kingsman, a secret organisation that has been operating for hundreds of years, protecting the world from evil plots of death and destruction. When a member is killed in action, Colin Firth’s Harry Hart recruits the apparently athletic and intelligent Eggsy- a former friend’s son who has gone from potential marine to outright chav- to come and join the group as the new ‘Lancelot’. As Eggsy goes through what appears to be one of the most rigorous and deadliest boot camps known to man, his mentor begins to investigate the death of his former Kingsman, which leads him to uncover a maniacal plot led by the hemophobic and multi-billionaire, Valentine, who is aided by his deadly assistant/assassin, Gazelle.
With a plot like this, Kingsman could have easily become a re-boot of Spy Kids, but Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn goes to extra lengths to ensure the film appeals primarily to adults, bringing to the picture his unique eye for ultra-violence, and ear for bad language (Mr Darcy saying the F-word?!) which together makes Kingsman the rarest of things; a popcorn blockbuster that isn’t rated 12a. However, are the axe’s to the head and constant ‘bad words’ really necessary? I don’t think so. The film actually works best when Vaughn is at his most inventive, crafting some masterful set-pieces during Eggsy’s training ( five people jump out of a plane, but one doesn’t have a parachute) and finding a unique, colourful and downright silly way of despatching some of the films ‘villians’.
All of this being said, Kingsman is still far from perfect and there are times where the humour just misses the mark completely, mainly in terms of its treatment of the female characters (date rape is never funny). It suffers from slight pacing issues as well, constantly torn between Eggsy’s training and the films main threat. On a whole though, I can’t deny the fact that I was thoroughly entertained throughout the majority of Kingsman, a ridiculously silly and cartoonish love letter to spy-films. Do the likes of James Bond, Jason Bourne and even Ethan Hunt have anything to worry about? Not in the slightest. But that isn’t to say that Kingsman: The Secret Service isn’t at least a refreshing, but more importantly, fun break from all the doom and gloom that surrounds our modern day superhero’s and spies.
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