VOD Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service.
While it has some fun and clever moments, the original Kingsman is too edgy for its own good.
Kingsman – The Secret Service, feels like a wager between the director and the studio: can you sustain an action movie on swagger and irony for nearly three hours? To the credit of Matthew Vaughn, he gives it a shot. The action sequences in Kingsman are lively and well-shot, providing a heartbeat to a film that feels like several movies sewn together. One part silly spy farce akin to Roger Moore’s stint as 007, one part gritty “kid from a bad neighborhood makes good” story, the two pieces never gel and fight each other for control of the tone all film long.
Kingsman – The Secret Service (2015)
Eggsy is a young man with a chip on his shoulder. His father was a Kingsman, an elite spy working above the authority of even the government, who was killed in action when Eggsy was just a toddler. Growing up in a single parent home in a bad neighborhood and surrounded by men who would just as soon break his nose as look at him, he has plenty of reason to hate authority. One day another member of the Kingsman group offers him a way out of his hard-scrabble life: pass a grueling training regimen and become a Kingsman like his father.
Who’s Telling the Story Here?
In my synopsis I don’t mention anything about the villain or his plans for world domination. The reason for that is because it feels like its part of another movie. The real narrative thrust is Eggsy, his rough background, and how Galahad (Colin Firth) takes him into the Kingsmen as a surrogate father figure. Time taken away from that story winds up feeling like time squandered on flippant action flick fare.
Sure, Colin Firth has some awesome action sequences when he’s on the trail of Samuel L. Jackson‘s mostly forgettable villain, and Sophia Boutella does admirably as a lethal henchwoman…but it feels tacked on to give the story some more pizzazz. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the last thing this movie needs is filler, even if it is action packed filler.
More Isn’t Better, It’s Just More.
Another area where the film can’t seem to control the time clock is in the training segments Eggsy has to go through. Once again, many of them are cool. The first one comes on so suddenly and has such a stark ending, it quickly sets the tone for how relentless the process is. Then it happens again. And again. An actual season of Survivor feels like it lasts less time.
Even while I was enjoying the penultimate test, I was thinking that the movie really needs to get moving. Then I checked the time stamp and saw that the film was still expecting me to stay seated for another hour. By this time nothing new is being added to the story, Vaughn is just showing me how many cool trials he brainstormed before writing the script. Get on with it!
Quantum of Solace.
The whole affair can’t help but draw comparison to the Bond films, whose campier elements are being riffed upon during the Colin Firth/Samuel L. Jackson segments, and whose new grittier tone seems to inform Eggsy’s story. Daniel Craig’s Bond was also an outsider and anti-authority figure who gradually learned to look dapper and play the spy. Of course, he made this transition over the course of 4 movies, and his first outing was wise enough to save much of his coming out party for a sequel.
At the end of the day, the film commits a common sin in modern film-making: it wants to have the cultural cachet of a long-running series or genre while simultaneously winking and nodding vigorously to avoid owning up to borrowing from it. It’s pretty much the whole point of the LEGO movies, and plenty of other films try to excuse identity theft as knowing satire. If you want to take heavy inspiration from the Bond movies, go ahead, just stop rubbing my nose in it while pretending you’re too cool to be aping a Bond movie.
Taking the Piss.
By the time the final act of the film rolls around, I was thoroughly out of patience with the whole proceedings. Flashy sequences of violence and edgy cockney antics weren’t enough to excuse the run time and the lack of focus the movie displays for close to two hours. To cap everything off, we get a rushed final confrontation which is both sillier and cruder than anything that had come before. When a Swedish Princess, who had previously been a strong independent character, offers Eggsy anal sex because he saves her, I checked out. Screw you, Matthew Vaughn, right in your backside for such a crass and tone deaf move.
When watching the trailers for the sequel, Kingsman – The Golden Circle, I could never figure out what kind of tone the movie was striving for. It’s weird and silly and yet wants you to feel like it’s edgy and cool. I could not decide how much of its antics I was supposed to take seriously. Apparently Matthew Vaughn couldn’t decide that either while making these movies.