Comic book movies are certainly the norm these days, but it’s a surprise when one hits the scene that doesn’t overtly scream “comic book,” nor rely on the expectations of a built-in fanbase. Interestingly, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE fits that bill, taking some basic cues from its not-so-distant comic past (2012’s Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons collaboration, THE SECRET SERVICE), but tossing much of the book aside in favor of new characters, locations, and more glaringly, the titular organization. When changes as drastic happen to beloved properties with a long history, fans cry foul, but KINGSMAN is spared such outrage due to just how new it is, and the fact that it’s a damn fine spy film that goes over-the-top to ridiculously-awesome results.
Self-aware, stylish and full of straight-up James Bond references and jokes, KINGSMAN never takes itself seriously (at all), with some of it’s set pieces veering into comedic realm that’s more AUSTIN POWERS and OUR MAN FLINT than Jason Bourne (who is also mentioned in the film, along with 24’s Jack Bauer). Even our eco-friendly-ish super villain (Samuel L. Jackson with an annoying lisp) has a hidden lair that would make predecessors from Blofeld to Dr. Evil mighty proud.
Colin Firth stars as Harry Hart, a mentor to “Eggsy,” a young thug played by newcomer Taron Egerton who strikes Hart as having great potential… something only amplified by being indebted to Eggy’s deceased father, also a former Kingsman. Replacing the oft-used Bond staple MI6 from the comic to the film, the Kingsmen are declared to be “the new Knights,” a slick, independent spy organization devoid of governmental ties. Quite simply, they’re out to do good and protect their fellow man, and that’s where Jackson comes into the fold as a villainous tech billionaire Valentine, with a devious plot that borrows heavily from both the 2007 horror flick, THE SIGNAL, and Jim Carrey’s Riddler in 1995’s BATMAN FOREVER. Place an item in the hands of the entire population (a sim card vs “The Box” in BATMAN) and when activated it makes everyone go violently crazy (THE SIGNAL). At Valentine’s side is Sofia Boutella as Gazelle, a blade-footed baddie that recalls a bit of Rose McGowan in PLANET TERROR.
Toss in the finest use of Lynryd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”since Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and you have Colin Firth busting heads in a manner never-thought-possible. With statements about politics, celebrity and class conflict here, there’s a lot to absorb, but it’s all in good fun, and yes, there’s a sequel in the wings.
If anything, the one place that KINGSMAN suffers is in runtime and pacing of the third act. At just over two hours (129 minutes), nearly 30 minutes could probably have been trimmed to tell the story in a crisper manner. Still, the Blu-ray and Digital HD packs in an additional 90 minutes of bonus features well-worth a watch.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, KICK-ASS) from a screenplay by he and collaborator Jane Goldman.