Verdict: Entertaining comedy that pays homage to great spy films without losing sight of its own story
It is still early for the summer blockbuster season, but 20th Century Fox delivered with “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” a movie that could well compete with the action-packed CGI extravaganzas coming to theaters in the middle of the year. There’s one difference, however. “Kingsman” actually tries to bring forth a story outside the blockbuster formula. In some ways, it succeeds.
Starring Colin Firth (OSCAR winner for his role in “The King’s Speech”) and Samuel L. Jackson (critically acclaimed for his roles in films like “Pulp Fiction”), “Kingsman” tells the story of a spy organization that brings onboard an untrained but talented street kid. The talents of this boy, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), must now be put to use before a crazy billionaire executes his plan to wipe out part of the world population.
Any “007” fan will know this plot well and the movie never hides its main source of inspiration. There are several direct and indirect references to the famous British agent, such as when Valentine (Jackson’s character) mentions his love for the old spy films and their villains planning to dominate the world. Valentine is such a villain. Instead of atomic bombs, however, his weapon is installed in the cell phones his company distributes for free across the globe. Valentine’s character shines every single time the cameras turns to him.
Jackson makes this character come to life. His acting has an edge on irony as he builds into Valentine the caricature of several great antagonists. Jackson’s monologue on saving the world, for instance, works especially well due to its dark humor and it sounds even funnier to “Pulp Fiction” fans who will remember his iconic Bible speech in that film. Evil, genius and funny, Valentine is a great homage to villains of past movies and comics, making the audience want more and more of him.
“Kingsman” thrives at these references. The movie works for those young viewers still unfamiliar with “007” or “Mission: Impossible,” but it doesn’t have the same effect. This is because the movie doesn’t begin picking up steam until these connections have been made, at least on a superficial level.
Once the viewer establishes these points of reference, everything makes sense: The high tech devices become cool toys and the action sequences become bigger and better. In terms of special effects, “Kingsman” has learned well from its role models. Special effects and aesthetics shine in scenes such as when the young candidates for agents are stuck in a dorm that is flooded with water. Working in favor of these scenes is the effective pacing, which creates suspense without slowing down the action. In another moment, the agents are thrown out of an airplane, but one doesn’t have a working parachute. The audience is kept in check in both cases, anxiously waiting for these candidates to come up with a solution.
The overall plot of “Kingsman” is predictable like those in the movies it pays homage to, but there are situations that keep things interesting, such as Firth’s character unexpectedly killing an entire church congregation after being affected by Valentine’s plan. The plot includes other twists which is welcome in a movie that could just have been another formulaic story of hero versus villain. The comic nature of the movie also works well. In one scene, a formal dinner consists simply of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. The sharp contrast between two men in tuxedo inside a luxurious home and a McDonald’s hamburger in a warming tray is especially funny.
Although “Kingsman” does not bring to the table anything that can make this a memorable movie in the long run, it is, at least, an entertaining one. It tries to break out of traditional blockbuster Hollywood plot lines at some moments and these attempts are successful to some degree. Best of all, “Kingsman” knows it isn’t running against movies like “007.” Instead of copying the classics of the genre, it pays homage to them and adds its own comedic spin. As Valentine says, “it ain’t that kind of movie.” He’s right; it ain’t. It is still a fun carnival ride though.