Loosely based on the comic book series The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman: The Secret Service is Director Matthew Vaughn’s latest attempt to shake up the comic book film genre. Does he succeed or is this another forgettable entry in an ever-expanding genre?
Yes and no, actually. While Kingsman is certainly a fun romp that pays homage to James Bond films of the past, it is also pretty goofy in parts as well as stale when it comes to some of the tried and true tropes, (read: clichés) it employs.
The premise is actually pretty cool. The Kingsmen are an independent group of special agents beholden to no government. They go around the world stopping international terrorists and villains. They are all named for Knights of the Roundtable, while their quartermaster and trainer is named Merlin (Mark Strong). The story focuses on Galahad (Colin Firth) and Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of the man who saved Galahad’s life seventeen years previously. Eggsy is a typical movie rebel—super smart and talented, but getting into trouble with the law and generally going nowhere. Galahad sees potential, so when the Kingsmen lose their Lancelot (Jack Davenport), Eggsy is Galahad’s choice to replace him. All the other Kingsmen have selected a champion as well including potential love interest Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and the arrogant and privileged Charlie (Edward Holcroft). Meanwhile, tech mogul Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his lovely, but deadly bodyguard Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) are kidnapping celebrities and dignitaries for his nefarious purposes that I won’t delve into here so as not to spoil the plot.
The movie is a typical hero-in-training film as the audience watches Eggsy grow from a street punk to a super spy. From the trailer, I expected to like Eggsy a lot less than I did. While he is a punk at heart, he’s not as much of an asshole as he appears to be in the trailers, which is good. It’s always nice when you don’t hate the protagonist. It’s also a love letter to the old James Bond films with megalomaniacal villains and their outlandish henchmen and world domination plans. There’s a lot to like here, but something stopped me from loving Kingsman. Maybe it was the fairly predictable, cliché plot or some of the dumber aspects of Valentine’s plan, particularly how his doomsday device works.
The cast does a really fine job here and they all seem like they’re having a blast. Colin Firth is great as Galahad, channeling both a proper British gentleman and an action hero. Egerton is likable as Eggsy. I thought he was going to be a real jerk off, but he’s easy to root for. Sam Jackson is really good as Valentine. His lisp can get old, but I found him to be more interesting than a lot of Bond villains. Michael Caine gives his usual sterling performance as the aristocratic Arthur, while Mark Strong makes a great, and funny, showing as Merlin. Watch out for a bit, but pivotal role from a Star Wars alum.
Overall, Kingsman, while fairly predictable, is a hell of a lot of fun. Unfortunately, in this case, you must measure this film against another film—X-Men: Days of Future Past. Why? Vaughn dropped the X-Men sequel to direct Kingsman. So, is Kingsman a lot of fun? Yes. Is it better than Days of Future Past? No.