Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) Colin Firth, Taron Egerton

kingsman still colin firth taron egerton

With the smart mix of violence and good humour, Matthew Vaughn has just upped the standards of the generic spy action comedy genre

Let’s get one thing straight first, Kingsman: The Secret Service is no James Bond or Austin Powers, and there’s certainly no shortage of movies with a plot about a wise experienced older member of an elite team recruiting a troubled young man who has potential. The character will then go through training and due to some unforeseen attack by terrorists or an evil organisation, the new recruit(s) is forced to go right into climatic action and save the nation or world. All this should already sound familiar to you already as such typical plot has been done to death. Most recent and memorably bad ones were Jack Ryan: The Secret Recruit (2014) and Wanted (2008).

However, the film was based on a 2012 comic book series and despite the massive lack of originality with the story and its predictable structure, director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) and his co-writer Jane Goldman managed make this espionage flick one of the most entertaining one of all time. It makes it even easier to appreciate when there hasn’t been any good ones lately, especially not in this parody-like nature but with genuinely hilarious humour, awesome cinematography (George Richman) and decent over-the-top action choreography with fun gory violence. The closest reference I could think of is Vaughn and Goldman’s Kick-Ass (2009), a superhero parody also based on a graphic novel with loads of laughter and violent action.

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Here’s the basic synopsis – after the death of another agent, super secret spy organisation Kingsman sets out to recruit promising young candidates for replacement. Top senior agent Harry Hart, a straight-up Bond-like ass-kicking British gentleman played by Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), picks up a street kid nicknamed Eggsy (played by virtually unknown Taron Egerton, who has the pretty boy charm indeed), who not only has high potential but also the son of a fallen colleague from the past. While the training and interview process are happening, a tech tycoon philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) plots to reduce world population for apparent benefit of Earth’s well being. Jackson’s performance as as this movie cliche-conscious antagonist is, to me, the most standout one in the film. Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, RocknRolla) plays Agent Merlin, Oscar winner Sir Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Alfie) plays Chester King “Arthur”, the head of the Kingsman, and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker of the original Star Wars trilogy!) has a small role (literally) as well but I couldn’t recognise him at all. Let’s see you could!

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Yes, again, the plot sounds like a lot of other movies (not to mention that the antagonist’s evil plan reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode), but it’s quite well constructed. There were probably only two flaws I couldn’t forgive – one has something to do with the training and selection process of the candidates while the other being Valentine’s cool female assassin Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who has blades for prosthetic legs but not explained why in the movie even though it’s obvious that the audience would be curious about it.

The film is not only funny with entertaining violent action while being stylish at the same time, it’s also satirical and it has two awesome scenes that I believe I would remember for a long time – one is the hardcore violent brawl in the church with cool camera work and choreography, and the other, well, I shall not spoil it. Let’s just say it’ll “blow your mind”. And the shameless brand/product placements for Guinness and McDonald’s here are probably the best commercials in a movie these brands ever had. Another funny thing is that this movie is really made for Valentine’s Day, like really, with a countdown to the occasion in the third act, and yet it doesn’t have any unnecessary boring-ass romance subplot.

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Post-credit scene: None, but there’s a rather cliched mid-credit scene.

What I would’ve named the film: “Not Just Another Spy Flick”

Malaysia censorship: There are a few entertainingly violent scenes and some vulgarities but nothing seemed to be cut when I watched it at the press screening held at TGV 1 Utama.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said that the movie is “damn nice” and that she really liked the humour.

Verdict: The only movie you should catch on Valentine’s Day this year. Perhaps the best spy action comedy in recent years, if not one of the best of all time.

Rating: 4 / 5

kingsman malaysia posterBased on: “The Secret Service” comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

Genre: Spy action comedy
Running Time: 129 minutes
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriters: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton

Malaysia Release Date: 19 Feb. 2015 (sneak previews 13 – 15 Feb. 2015)
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Marv Films

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