Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Man with the Golden Umbrella: Kingsman: The Secret Service

     It's basically impossible to talk about Kingsman: The Secret Service without mentioning the 2010 frenetic and brutal take on superheros, Kickass (also directed by Matthew Vaughn) or any of the older James Bond films with over-the-top villains and unique humor. It's impossible because Kingsman: The Secret Service is an off-the-wall combination of both, containing the stylistic brutality of the R-rated kids-turned-hero flick and the gentlemanly-style, dry humor and the most modern gadgetry of any given Bond film. Like Kickass, Kingsman is also based upon a comic book, and Vaughn infuses the film with colorful violence and an entertaining nonchalance about the proceedings that is charming and fun. It's a good start to the 2015 movie season.
     Kingsman is one of those self-aware movies that realizes it's a movie: characters spout quotes about films that fall into similar genres, like Bourne or Bond, and many scenes can end with almost a wink to the camera. But the reason it succeeds on a pure entertainment level is because unlike the movies starring Jason Bourne and James Bond, this one's aimed at adults: London street language vulgarity is spurted at every turn by our young protagonist, and the film contains some almost shocking levels of violence. But the violence fits: it's February--the time of the year when the dregs of the cinematic universe are released--and we could all deal with en entertaining, violent and vulgar story about spies, world domination, and colorful villains.
     The trailer for this movie really annoyed me. It seems like it was shown before every film in the theater for almost a year (part of that is because it was delayed from Fall 2014 until now, which was another reason to be completely skeptical), with the main character saying things like "wicked" and "that is sick" in his British accent. So count me as surprised by the fun-factor of the whole thing: Harry (Colin Firth, in a role that shows he could easily pull off a Liam Neeson-esque mid-career action Renaissance) is a Kingsman, a sort of MI6 badass spy group just as concerned with fashion and manners as they are hi-tech gadgets and hand-to-hand combat. But they need new recruits after a mission goes bad and they are one spy less than they used to be.
     So a group of young recruits, all college age, get sucked into the Kingsman headquarters to take part in a competition involving teamwork, weapon skills, and general perseverance. Our main hero is Eggsy (Taron Egerton, in a career-making role full of flash, humor and charm), whose dad was a Kingsman himself, but whose life has been relegated to low-income housing and his mom's scumbag associates. It's impossible not to root for him with his likability and underdog story. While this is going on, a billionaire villain (Samuel L. Jackson having fun with a Mike Tyson lisp) is developing a technology to secretly control and wipe out the majority of the human race. His main henchwoman is present solely for her sultry, dangerous looks and her sharp feet made out of metal blades that slice and dice any one who dares stand in her way.
      Kingsman moves like a Bond film, full of over-the-top world domination plots and awe-inspiring action, and it's the latter moments that make the film shine: one notable scene, taking place in a Westboro Baptist Church-style teachings congregation, really sticks out at showing the shock value of a hard-rated R spy film--the action is frenetic and brutal, but it doesn't rely on quick-cut editing like the Bourne films. You feel every stab, gunshot and ax wound. And as we learned with Kick-Ass, this is what director Matthew Vaughn is great at: taking a getting-tired genre (in Kickass is was superhero it's Bond-like spy films) and making his own version full of unique humor, weirdness, and stylistic action that gets your blood pumping while this brutally-cold winter piles up another foot of snow outside of our windows.     (B+)

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