KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
From "Bond" to "Flint" to "Austin Powers" to become such a disappointment.
Film Review © 2015 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, based on the comic book "The Secret Service" and related characters created by Mark Milllar and Dave Gibbons. Produced by Adam Bohling, David Reid, and Matthew Vaughn.
Starring: Colin Firth (as super-spy, Harry Hart / Galahad), Taron Egerton (as the apprentice being mentored by Harry Hart, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin), Samuel L. Jackson (as the evil billionaire, genius, philanthropist and overall crazy person, lisp-speaking Richmond Valentine), Mark Strong (as a senior Kingsman agent and IT/Weapons/Tech specialist and trainer, Merlin), Michael Caine (as leader of the Kingsman organization, Chester King / Arthur), Sophie Cookson (as the counter-balancing female apprentice, Roxy), Sofia Boutella (as the gorgeously evil henchwoman with bladed prosthetic legs, Gazelle), Mark Hamill (as climate change expert, Professor James Arnold), and a host of others.
Based on the trailer, it looked like "Kingsman: The Secret Service" was going to be a James-Bond-ish version of "The Mechanic (1972)" or "The Karate Kid (1984)" or similar such films where the seasoned sage-like professional trains an apprentice. Well, this is partially true. The story?
Flim essentially begins with a flashback showing how the life of super-spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) was saved by the father of apprentice-to-be Garry "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton). Unbeknownst to Eggsy, Hart (code named "Galahad") felt an obligation to look after Eggsy and his family, and Hart did so as their guardian angel. Eggsy upset some local bullies and Hart stepped in and quickly defeated all of the bullies in an extremely well choreographed ballet of gunplay, fisticuffs, and derring-do. Frankly, Colin Firth and his stunt double Rick English should be considered for more James Bond-ish roles, because they did an excellent job performaning the pseudo-martial arts and related action.
Meanwhile, Hart eventually inlists Eggsy as his protégé into the off-the-books super-secret spy organization, "The Kingsmen," which is modeled less like MI6 or related Bond-isms but more like the classic Knights of the Round Table of 12th century Britain. As a trainee, Eggsy shows great aptitude and ingenuity, but emotionally he lacked the stoicism and aloofness required to be a Kingsman. Enter over-the-top bad guy billionaire and psychopathic genius with a heavy lisp, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), and his dastardly scheme to abruptly curtail human over-population and destruction of the earth's eco-system by humans. Valentine implanted computer chips in the heads of prominent people and distributed "free" cell phones to the masses worldwide, and he's ready to use his satellite network to broadcast a lethal signal that will automatically kill everyone linked with these devices. As scripted, the execution of Valentine's plan is not worthy of any Bond plot, especially when the actual heads of people began to explode like multi-colored balloons thereby making the film overtly cartoonish. "Austin Powers" looked smarter.
Of course, we're expecting plenty of action and suspense, and the film delivers in this regard, but the mentoring relationship between the sage, Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and his protégé was underdeveloped. The best thing about "The Kingsman" is Colin Firth, but without giving too much away, Firth absent from the last third of the film; and Taron Egerton as his apprentice, lacked the on-screen presence or "weight" to carry the rest of the film. In compliance with a mediocre script all other acting in film is perfunctory.
Direction by Matthew Vaughn is excellent, with a wonderful array of shot selections that framed many scenes like panels in a comic book graphic novel, including great use of special effects and nifty camera angles. Editing by Eddie Hamilton and John Harris is tight and mirrored the solid film direction. Sadly, the script for this this 129 minute filmdeclined from the stylish sophistication and excitement of any film in the "James Bond" franchise, then declined to a caricature of "In Like Flint (1967)" and then declined to the frivolity of "Austin Powers (1997)" to ultimately decline to become a real disappointment. "Kingsman" cost $81 million and as of March 12, 2015 generated a worldwide gross of $251,488,238 which means a sequel is likely. Bummer. We can only hope the next film is better.
Recommendation: Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it on cable or at the $5.00 bin at Walmart.