‘Manners… maketh… man.’
Kingsman is run and gun ‘em, take-no-prisoners, mad-cap action fun.
Its story is based on solid underdog principles: smart kid from a poor background has a chance to better himself, but has to best privileged kids to do so. For the most part, Kingsman feels very Made in Chelsea vs Eastenders. The lead ‘Eggsy’ (Taron Egerton) has a home life so akin to an episode of Eastenders, that they even borrowed one of their actors (Samantha Womack). However, this story is entertaining. It’s nothing remarkably new in its process but Matthew Vaughn and co. have made something very enjoyable to watch.
Kingsman is suitably aware of its context, addressing spy movies of past, whilst never veering too far away from them. ‘Eggsy’ is a Banksy-Bond and has the street skills to compliment the gentlemanly abilities he is acquiring. Kingsman ensures that it has removed many of the silly troupes that are outdated in modern spy films, only to replace them with other elements that are blatantly silly themselves.
Bad-guy goons are still foreign and faceless, whilst our head despot, played by Samuel L. Jackson is a villain in every sense. A powerful man with a radical ‘moral’ plan, his character is entertainingly vulnerable. I really enjoyed his character, and would have been one of the film’s best parts, if not for his ridiculous forced lisp.
Kingsman assembled the most English collection actors available, Firth, Caine, Strong, in a brilliant association of British-ness. Their roles were kept to the actor’s strengths, Caine is seated for most scenes, though Firth, not most accustomed to action films, explored unchartered territory very well. I was slightly annoyed that Strong, whose sultry English voice could slay a dragon, had a Scottish accent. His James McAvoy impression is done very well, but I did miss his famous English tones.
The film is strongest however in its outstandingly glorious visuals and wealth of gratuitous violence. Not only does it feature some beautiful set-pieces, Kingsman is not shy when it comes to death. Unlike Bond or Bourne, and more like Vaughn’s previous Kick Ass films, Kingsman spares no sight of blood, gore and death. This is epitomised most magnificently at the films crescendo in a truly magical explosion sequence.
Yet, Kingsman has its flaws. Aside from SLJ’s voice, the film wasn’t great for women. Though several women feature in prominent roles, few have much to say for themselves and two prominent females are ultimately degraded into sexual roles. The society the film is set within is a deliberately patriarchal beast, a beast which Roxy (Sophie Cookson) is meant to subvert. However, the film still resorts to needless sexuality. There is little need for SLJ to spank his assistant (Sofia Boutella) and the main sexual reference at the films end, was an unnecessary change of pace.
The film is also a little chubby around the edges. Weighing in at 129 minutes, the film could have done with shedding a few of those extra minutes.
Yet as a whole, Kingsman plays out a bit like a mad Matrix-Moonraker. Its lots of fun, has lots of good performances (Mark Hammill!) but has its blemishes.