Once again, Vaughn and Millar kick ass!
British director Matthew Vaughn continues his run of comic book adaptations with Kingsman; producing a witty, stylish, action-packed, bloody and unquestionably fun experience for the New Year.After his largely – and refreshingly – no-holds barred interpretation of acclaimed graphic novelist Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass, Vaughn’s vision for the X-Men reboot was delivered as a much more studio-restrained work. Somewhere inside First Class is a dark and edgy exploration of the tragic origins of Magneto; unfortunately it got blended with a teen-friendly team-training montage saga of no consequence. Here Vaughn returns to Millar’s dirty and uncompromising world of comic book anti-heroes, and, even despite the restrictions of a 15 certificate, this is a bloody long way away from the tame realms of the 12A.When chavtastic teen Eggsy goes off the rails, he gets helped out by the dapper Harry Hart, who used to work with Eggsy’s late father as part of the Kingsman. The Kingsman are the best of the best; super-secret British super-spies – the knights of the new world – keeping the world safe, whilst maintaining a disturbingly obsessive gentleman’s dress style. Recruited and put through his paces, Eggsy finds the chance to be a part of this elite unit, if he can survive the training, and his ultimate test comes when a new global threat emerges and the clandestine group have to go into action to save the world for real.
Blending thoroughly satisfying – and frequently bloody – violence with self-aware pop culture wit, Kingsman is everything you’d expect from another Vaughn/Millar combo. It’s stylish but raw, surprisingly brutal but quintessentially British. Indeed, in many respects, it does for super-spies what Kick-Ass did for super-heroes – taking them apart, cliché by cliché, but celebrating every single anachronism along the way.
Guns, gadgets and girls; scheming megalomaniac villains, deadly unstoppable assassins and disposable henchmen – Kingsman wears its heritage proudly on its sleeve. Colin Firth’s superspy lead Harry Hart is not only named after James Bond’s myopic genre-cousin, Harry Palmer, but is also directly reporting to a man played by Harry Palmer himself, Michael Caine. Of course, his dress-sense and style smacks more of The Avengers’ Steed, and Firth stirs all these icons into a wonderful melting pot that often feels like a role he was born to play but never got the chance.
Samuel L. Jackson, who is remarkably hit and miss in the villain department, thankfully nails it here as the film’s technology-savvy Blofeld, complete with a hilarious lisp, and he’s more than ably assisted by his distinctive henchwoman, Gazelle, who you might have spotted on the film’s poster. Firth too, has decent back-up from the likes of Caine as well as Vaughn/Millar fave Mark Strong, and he has solid chemistry with newcomer Taron Egerton, although I’m not sure you’re ever fully convinced of him as a worthy successor.
Vaughn and Millar certainly know how to make comic book movies for adults.
Of course, fans of Millar will draw numerous parallels with plenty of his other works – from Wanted to Kick Ass – they all involve heroes in the least expected places, trained against the odds to become part of secretive groups and fight evil in one guise or another. They all trade in the tropes of familiar well-trodden genres, but fashionably rework them for a new generation, with a strong self-awareness that makes them as witty as they are action-packed. Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And action-packed this is, with some of the best-staged action sequences in quite some time, which will likely prove as memorably brutal as they are smile-on-your-face satisfying.
Far from a perfect animal, Kingsman does, eventually, threaten to outstay its welcome, and feels in perpetual danger of not quite delivering on the promise and spark of all that wonderful build-up, but it has some truly engaging, entertaining – and even positively laugh out loud – touches, and brazen bloody violence which will make you wonder what they could have possibly cut out to make this “only” a 15.
It’s a refreshingly original mish-mash of a hundred classic spy-action-thriller ingredients, put through Millar’s cynical, irreverent blender and served up courtesy of uber-stylish chef Vaughn. There’s nothing quite like that mix, and I almost wish the two could make all their movies together, because they seem to be perfect partners in crime.
You can pre-order Kingsman: The Secret Service Blu-ray Here
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