Kingsman: The Secret Service

Posted by Joel Copling on February 12, 2015

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" has all the ingredients handy for a tasty meal of action heroics and cheeky humor, but in its attempt both to emulate and to poke fun at the spy genre (James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer are all name-dropped), it forgets that the villain in such an effort is genuinely maniacal and threatening. Oh, the villain can be funny, and this one achieves the ambition. Unfortunately, the villain here is of the type that is entirely unthreatening, his only interesting elements being a silly, little lisp, an aversion to blood, and a murder that kicks the third act into gear with the effect of a gut-punch. Otherwise, this is frenetic, forgettable fare that rides the coattails of its own cleverness without really engaging it.

The good side, a modernized answer to the Knights of the Roundtable, has bulletproof umbrellas, hand grenades designed as cigarette lighters, and pairs of glasses that work as basically every communication and surveillance device imaginable. At the head of the group is "King" Arthur himself (Michael Caine, sorely under-utilized), and under his command are the fellow Kingsman agents, such as "Galahad" (Colin Firth), whose real name is Harry Hart. The father of Hart's newest recruit, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), was a member of the group until his untimely death, and Eggsy himself is sent through a recruiting process that repetitively takes up most of the film's runtime.

That villain, by the way, is Richmond Valentine, and he is played by none other than the great Samuel L. Jackson, about whom one never hopes to say such disappointed things as "He was cartoonish in all the wrong ways." Alas, one must also be honest, and Valentine's plot, which boils down to global environmental fanaticism, is dreadfully uninteresting. He is merely a plot device to get our hero to the point at which he is surest of himself as an agent, although he does have a henchman named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) with kebab-like javelin swords for legs. The frenetic action sequences (the most impressive and weirdly distasteful of which takes place inside the church of a hate group) are sufficient enough as filler combat, and the would-be graphic finale (which involves no less than exploding heads) is still tame, despite the film's R-rating. Little about "Kingsman: The Secret Service" reaches a level of intrigue or fun that makes the anticipation of seeing more of these characters all that compelling.

Film Information

Taron Egerton (Gary "Eggsy" Unwin), Colin Firth (Harry Hart/"Galahad"), Mark Strong ("Merlin"), Samuel L. Jackson (Valentine), Sophie Cookson (Roxy), Sofia Boutella (Gazelle), Michael Caine (Arthur), Edward Holcroft (Charlie), Samantha Womack (Michelle Unwin), Jack Davenport (Lancelot), Mark Hamill (Professor Arnold).

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, based on the comic book "The Secret Service" by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

Rated R (violence, language, sexual content).

129 minutes.

Released on February 13, 2015.