“I have an even better idea. I’m going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.”
Matthew Vaughn burst onto the geek scene in 2010 with Kick-Ass, and honed his super hero chops with the excellent X-Men: First Class. With Kingsman, Vaughn takes on a different type of action hero, the spy. Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on the graphic novel The Secret Service, which was written by Kick-Ass scribe Mark Millar. The Kingsmen are a covert organization even more secret than MI6 or the CIA, who appear posh, but are lethal. Kingsman is right in Vaughn’s wheelhouse, but unfortunately it’s a pop fly and not a home run.
Colin Firth plays the deadly, yet gentlemanly, Harry Hart. Harry is haunted by the loss of a once promising protégé and promises himself to right what’s been wronged. Firth does this role its due diligence, and the role frankly couldn’t have been done better by anyone else. Hart takes Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, his former apprentice’s son under his wing. Egerton is also one of the few bright spots in this film. His charisma and skill will make him a sought after star in the coming years.
The plot is as basic as any Bond film, and yet the film goes to great lengths to distance itself from the prototypical spy film. Vaughn seems to have restrained what could have been a great satirical take on the spy genre. The attempts to poke fun at the genre are merely tongue-in-cheek and never truly attack its silliness. Just as it feels restrained in its satire, its violence is unrestrained and meaningless. All the violence is done without any thought or repercussion. Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the villain. Valentine is the only character who is disgusted by death and violence. This is another opportunity missed. Having a villain with more than a need for power motivating him could have been interesting, but the film is too caught up in its own style. Casting Jackson as a lisping evil genius was also a huge misfire. Jackson is fine, but the role could have been better served by someone who was more willing to “ham it up”.
Where the film really comes off the rails is in its direction. Matthew Vaughn can direct action and tension; Kick-Ass, X-Men, and Layer Cake are all good tense action films. But Kingsman is too stylized and CGI-ladened to be unique, fun, or tense. Most of the CGI is horrible and stands out more than the fake baby in American Sniper. The hand-to-hand fighting is done so close up and edited so poorly that the scope of the scenes are lost.
Kingsman: The Secret Service isn’t a terrible film, it’s just not good. Matthew Vaughn has obvious talent and is a capable director, but unfortunately none of that can be found in Kingsman. The only thing that makes the film fun is its leads. Colin Firth and Taron Egerton have great on-screen chemistry. I will be looking forward to seeing Egerton in particular in future films. Even though it’s cocked and loaded with a promising premise and tons of talent, Kingsman is a misfire.