“Kingsman: The Secret Service” Movie Review

     A clever script and inventive action sequences drive director Matthew Vaughn’s latest effort, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, in what is another solid comic book adaptation similar to his breakout film “Kick-Ass”.  Considering the subject matter, a British flavored spy story with cool as ice secret agents and larger than life villains, “Kingsman” can’t help but to remind of both the “Bond” series, as well as the “Austin Powers” films.  While most would flounder in parody, Vaughn finds a way around this by writing his characters dialogue to reflect their knowledge of current spy films, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer are both mentioned, and then having key characters utter “This isn’t that kind of movie”.  What this does is it  allows for the characters who populate the film to operate under their own perceived set of rules, even though most of the action presents a number of situations we have all seen before.

     In the film’s prologue, we see the Kingsman, a high level British spy outfit, involved in a late 90s Middle East scenario in which one of them is killed saving the lives of the other agents.  When Agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) visits the agent’s widow and child, he gives the agent’s son a Kingsman medal, which tells us we are likely to see this child again down the road.  When we do, he is now a twenty something nicknamed Eggsy (Taron Egerton), drifting between jobs and clearly unhappy with his lot in life.  Eggsy lives with his mom, who now has a husband who abuses her at every opportunity and his son, who is older than Eggsy, constantly torments and looks down upon him.  After an incident lands Eggsy in jail, he uses his one phone call to dial a number on the back of the medal given to him when his father was killed.  And just like that, he’s released and met outside by Agent Hart.

     Vaughn has shown a penchant for the highly stylized martial arts fueled action sequences he used to maximum effect in both “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class” and it’s clear from the beginning he intends on using everything he toyed with in those two films and bringing it to an entirely new level in “Kingsman”.  Put simply, these are some of the most entertaining action set pieces I have seen in a comic book inspired film.  There’s always a dash of silliness mixed into every move that ensures the violent outcomes don’t evoke the kind of nastiness you would see in similar sequences in a film like say, “The Raid”.  The damage taken by the victims is often so over the top, you sit their more in awe and disbelief than you would if there was any sort of emotional investment in the character.  Hands and arms are lopped off with surgical precision.  Close range gun shots act as an extension of the hand as they hit their target with razor sharp accuracy and effectiveness, instantly turning the lights out of a would be killer and allowing our heroes to quickly move on to the next attacker. 

     Eggsy is recruited into the Kingsman and joins a group of preselected and sponsored candidates who are to be put through a series of rigorous and challenging tests in order to access their suitability to become agents.  In the meantime, a billionaire tech mogul named Valentine, played by a lisping Samuel L. Jackson, has begun to hatch a nefarious plan with what has to be the most unique vision of a world domination plot ever portrayed on film.  Valentine believes the Earth is reacting with climate range and other environmental catastrophes due to the virus that is the human race and has concocted a way to rid the world of a large portion of its population.  In doing so, he has solicited the help of several world leaders and has ensured their allegiance by implanting a small chip behind their ear that can literally and unknowingly make their head explode at the push of a button.  When the Kingsman are alerted of the plot, Agent Hart, who is referred to by his peers as Galahad, is dispatched to investigate.

     These events lead to a number of highly creative sequences that effectively up the ante in terms of overall carnage.  Immediately coming to mind is a full on battle royal in a Southern church targeted by Valentine due to their hateful beliefs.  When the film takes a sharp turn there, the Kingsman are presented with your typical “save the world” scenario so many of the great spy characters have found themselves involved in.  Never to be taken seriously, “Kingsman” never forgets its comic book roots, even when the violence is turned all the way up to 11.  As a henchman of sorts to Valentine, a character named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) provides the dose of comical irony a film like this tends to thrive on with her Oscar Pistorius like “Blade Runner” prosthetic legs capable of slicing a person in half as she executes a wide array of high flying martial arts mayhem.  Gazelle and Valentine are rifts on several classic villains and yet they have a very original look and feel to them that assists the story in maintaining a fresh vibe throughout.  Adding to the overall look of the film is a number of thoughtful and original spy gadgets that come in handy during several notable situations.  Vaughn’s style integrates seamlessly into the source material and could, perhaps, spawn a successful franchise for the filmmaker.  GRADE: B