Kingsman: The Secret Service Review
Does the name Mark Millar ring any bells? If not, it probably should and probably will within a year or two, or sooner than that based on what you read. Mark Millar is one of the finest writers in modern comics, deconstructing the industry while also putting a unique skill to the worlds of Marvel and DC. Millar’s work usually consists of an individual, prone to amorality; finding out the world isn’t what he thought it was. Millar wrote the comic version of “Wanted,” which was not at all what the movie turned out to be. All the Weavers of Fate nonsense was not in the comic book, and what Millar did was much more fun. Millar wrote the comic version of “Kick-Ass” which turned into a good movie, if you ask me. Now, another screened adaptation of one of his works hit theaters this weekend, “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
Director Matthew Vaughn must be a mighty Millar fan, because he has adapted two of his graphic novels to the screen. Vaughn directed the first “Kick-Ass” movie, which was the best so far. Then in 2011, Vaughn proved he had a flair for other mainstream comics characters as he breathed a new life in the “X-Men” franchise with “X-Men: First Class.” This year, Vaughn proved he is a voice to be reckoned with in the business of comic book adapting, as he brought “Kingsman: The Secret Service” to life, with a bang and thunder.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” feels like a Millar comic. It features slight popular culture references. It is full of fun and bombast. There are moments of shocking violence and just as many moments of shocking comedy. I cannot stress the shock of the violence enough, in the “Kick-Ass,” “Wanted” and even “Wolverine: Old Man Logan” comics, the violence was so over-the-top, you could not help but get sucked into the story. At the same time, Millar was always good creating empathy for his characters, no matter how amoral they were and he always put together an engaging story. Just as with “Kick-Ass,” Matthew Vaughn seems to understand the essence of the comics, while also putting a unique signature of his own on the material. He also picks a strong cast of actors to bring this story to life.
The film follows Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a British boy who is growing up in a somewhat broken home. His mother is seeing a man who doesn’t treat her well after his biological father mysteriously died when Eggsy was young. He still has a flare for life, even if he does get in trouble with the law. After a night of grand theft auto, Eggsy is abruptly released from prison by “Galahad” (Colin Firth), a man who knew Eggsy’s father and who works for an independent espionage agency known as The Kingsman. Galahad feels bad for how Eggsy’s father died, and he wishes to help the boy create a better life for himself. So he recruits him to the training program for The Kingsman. There, Eggsy meets Arthur (Michael Caine), Merlin (Mark Strong) and is on his way to a better life, if he can pass the program.
Taron Egerton is quite the discovery here, and whatever you think makes the film work for you, Egerton is definitely part of that equation. I have not seen any other movies with Egerton nor have I heard of him until now, but I can say that after this, he will start showing up in several movies starting now. He will be the go-to guy starting now, just as Mark Strong was several years before. There is irreplaceable about his talent, it feels as if he has been doing this his whole life. I can’t imagine another actor his age you could possibly match him. When he’s onscreen, it’s hard to focus on anything else. He has a charm and determination onscreen that I feel is matchless compared to anyone else his age. Forget Logan Lerman, forget Dylan O’Brien, I want Egerton to play Spider-Man for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I never would have guessed that Colin Firth would be so badass; he always carried a dramatic presence in all of his other filmography. He never rugged himself up, he was always that nice guy. Here, he still has that gentlemen charm, but with a slight malice to it. This is a secret agent who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and we feel every emotion Firth presents to the audience. Mark Strong and Michael Caine are perfection as always. What I loved most about the movie is how it played with the expectations of the spy genre while also twisting them as well. There is a twist involving Caine’s character that I just did not see coming based on the characters he usually plays and that reversal was one of the highlights of the film.
Then there is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Mr. Valentine, the film’s villain. Who is Mr. Valentine? Well, he’s basically a lisp-voiced, African American Ra’s al-Ghul. A philanthropist who has a secret plot that challenges the world. Samuel L. Jackson could play this role in his sleep and its funny to me how much more talented he’s become as he has got older. I love that his villain isn’t the cut-and-dry baddie we usually get in these movies. He has a plot we can relate to, but he goes about it in a bad way.
And of course, what would a spy movie be without any lovely ladies. Sofia Boutella as Gazelle, Valentine’s henchman who is a beautiful as she is deadly. She does not have a lot of dialogue in the movie, but she’s the Big Bad’s Big bad. That one henchman that takes our hero longest to defeat. Sophie Cookson plays Roxy, a girl who is also recruited to the Kingsman and trains alongside Eggsy. In the movie Roxy and Eggsy become close, but it’s never a romantic relationship, which I liked a lot about the film. I think Cookson is a very good actress, and she does really good work here.
I love how the film plays with the conventions of the spy movie, there are crazy gadgets in the movie that would make James Bond jealous. There is henchman for Mr. Valentine who has swords for feet and a secret underground lair that is cool and modern. But this is not some parody of those movies; “Kingsman” becomes its own thing. The movie doesn’t illuminate the “bad-boy-discovers-his-potential” movie in any new way. But the film is so confident, so fun and so entertaining that it is hard not to be won over by it.
FINAL GRADE: A