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Post-modernist love letter to spy movies

Posted : 3 years, 3 months ago on 20 August 2015 01:34

""Manners maketh man." Do you know what that means? "

2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service represents a reunion for filmmaker Matthew Vaughn and graphic novel writer Mark Millar, whose previous collaboration resulted in the instant classic that was Kick-Ass. Much like that 2010 cult gem, Kingsman is a deliriously over-the-top action-comedy about a wayward young man who finds his direction in life by assimilating a real-life version of mythic heroism from popular culture. But whereas Kick-Ass set its knowing, satirical sights on American superhero movies, Kingsman is a defiantly British pastiche of old-school, gentleman spy movies like the long-running James Bond franchise. It fundamentally plays out like a crude, ultraviolent 007 adventure with a tinge of Men in Black in its narrative DNA, and, thanks to the deft directorial hand of Vaughn, the resulting flick is an absolute blast.

An intelligent but misguided young adult, Londoner Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) lost his dad under mysterious circumstances, which has haunted him for years. After being arrested, Eggsy is approached by the enigmatic Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who seeks to recruit Eggsy to become a Kingsman agent. The Kingsman is highly a classified secret service organisation invisible to the public eye, and, as it turns out, Eggsy's father died as a recruit on Harry's watch. Given the opportunity to follow in his father's footsteps, Eggsy is put through the training process, where he's given a punishing introduction to the service by Merlin (Mark Strong). But Eggsy and Harry soon face a formidable adversary in the form of lisping billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who looks to implement a secret weapon that could kill billions of people.

Whereas most brainless action blockbusters fail to pay much mind to storytelling, Kingsman is surprisingly sedate for its first two thirds, with the occasional violent scene but mostly focusing on Eggsy's training and Harry's investigation of Valentine's shady business. It's rare for a spy movie to actually focus on the schooling aspect, which allows Kingsman to stand out as unique. Written by Vaughn and frequent collaborator Jane Goldman, the picture is essentially an origins tale, but Vaughn does wise by splitting focus between Eggsy and Harry, in turn maintaining sufficient momentum and shaking up the archetypal formula. Vaughn capably brings us up to speed on the Kingsman and how they operate, on top of securing relationships and establishing the central villainous plot. As Vaughn has himself stated, all the best villains in spy movies are grounded in a sense of reality, and Richmond Valentine ticks this box, with the character being based off the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It is scaringly plausible for a big tech company to act like a classic James Bond villain. Better, Valentine's theory behind his sinister machinations actually does make sense, and he's not in it for money.

All the build-up leads into an action-heavy final third that's well worth the wait. Vaughn further confirms his talents when it comes to staging frenetic action sequences, whipping up a frenzy of insane, off-the-hook and exceedingly violent confrontations peppered with wonderfully creative touches. Kick-Ass had the young Chloe Moretz killing a room of goons to the theme tune from The Banana Splits, and here we have heads exploding like colourful fireworks, and images of the general public slaughtering each other to the gleeful tune of "Give It Up." But the picture's centrepiece is the irresistibly un-PC church scene in which Valentine tests his mind control ray, compelling Harry to slaughter a good fifty Westborough Baptist Church-style caricatures in an awesome display of cartoonish ultraviolence. The sequence is an utter contrivance, nothing but an excuse for Harry to show off his incredible skills in battle without him being held in any way accountable for his actions. And yet, it's so competently staged and deliriously enjoyable that it undeniably works. 007 adventures are mostly suitable for kids, but Kingsman is an R-rated actioner, with Vaughn permitting blood spurts and some insane moments of violence. The camerawork is a bit on the frenetic side, though, and the movie might have been superior with smoother cinematography.

Just as Kick-Ass took the piss out of superhero iconography, Kingsman is a post-modernist love letter to spy movies, merrily finding its own weirdly quirky and at times pitch-black voice. Valentine, for instance, may be a stereotypical bad guy, but speaks with a lisp and has an aversion to blood - he projectile vomits if he sees so much as one drop of blood. The finale, meanwhile, contains a rather left-field anal sex joke that had this reviewer in stitches (but others might find a bit beyond the pale).

Kingsman is undeniably bolstered by smart casting, with Firth in particular doing a superb job as Harry Hart. Firth is the furthest thing from an action hero type, yet he nails the role - his posh sensibility serves him well as a gentleman spy, and his physical prowess is surprisingly outstanding. It's obvious that the veteran actor did a lot of training to prepare for the movie, and it pays off. Equally excellent is newcomer Taron Egerton, who's a real catch as Eggsy. His transformation from punk hooligan to sophisticated spy is surprisingly nuanced, and he's easy to get behind. As the token villain of the enterprise, Samuel L. Jackson is completely cartoonish in all the right ways, clearly enjoying himself in the role which goes against his Marvel hero persona. Other veteran actors pop in as well, with Strong placing forth fine work while the reliable Michael Caine is spot-on as the head of Kingsman. Also keep an eye out for Mark Hamill, who's fun to watch in an extended cameo.

Vaughn has carved out a career in comic book movies, and Kingsman is another solid addition to his filmography, an energetic action-comedy lark which provides big laughs and a number of adrenaline-pumping action scenes. The characters here actually discuss contemporary spy films, bemoaning that they have become too serious, but Kingsman is flat-out fun. Admittedly, pacing is not always spot-on, but the movie undeniably improves upon repeat viewings. For viewers who have grown tired of the sanitised PG-13 action movie scene, Kingsman is a wonderful reprieve, and its almost defiantly politically incorrect stance makes it a real winner.


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"Kingsman: The Secret Service" (2015)

Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 15 June 2015 12:19


Matthew Vaughn's second adaptation of a Mark Millar comic. :) And just like Kick-Ass, it proves to be a match made in heaven! :D In a word, wow! It's a send-up to over-the-top spy action movies that's equal parts gleeful homage and biting satire. It tells two stories in parallel: a young new recruit going through Kingsman training, and the actual Kingsman agents investigating Richmond Valentine – who, by the way, is a great villain. There are too many amazingly clever moments to even count; if I could gush about every single scene, I would. :) But I will say this much: the whole film strikes a perfect balance between funny, sardonic and exciting, and is just all-around exhilarating. Obviously the year's not over yet, but I'm pretty confident this will still be in my top five by year's end. I loved it.

My rating: 90%

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Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Posted : 3 years, 7 months ago on 30 April 2015 08:43

Initial Thought: When I saw the trailer I knew this one I had to see. It looked so fluid, funny, and just plain badass. The cast also really caught my attention. The question was when would I get the chance. Well now I have and I'm super excited to get the show on the road.

Characters/Acting: There is quite a power cast here which is always awesome for comic book related films. It gets the fans to come while getting newcomers interested as well. Mark Hamill is looking probably the best he has in awhile here. I just love Samuel L. Jackson's character because he is evil yet his behavior and lisp make him quite likeable. His right hand girl is a badass too! I realized the cliche of having a British villain constantly is reversed where the British are good and the villain is played by an American. I thought that it was a wonderful change seeing as Mark Strong was in a commercial pointing out why is usually picked for villain roles. Why am I always attracted to the mostly deadly of female characters? I have to say Gazelle was fun to watch and kind of reminded me of Hit Girl and Gogo Yubari (from Kill Bill).

Story: Well this is a spy movie based off a comic book involving teens taking down terrorists. The action scenes are a pure adrenaline rush. I highly enjoy stylized action especially when it isn't toned down for a PG-13 or under rating. I am kind of tired of the asshole step-dad/boyfriend cliches in movies, but I guess it kind of works here to explain character traits a little. I had wondered about a certain scene so I had to look up if I was correct. There is a scene where Samuel L. Jackson is talking to someone and the camera pans out and you hear a voice that sounds quite close to Barack Obama and you realize he is in the White House! I have to say that was a really well done scene. The whole initiation process reminds me of several of those kind of movies like Ender's Game or Starship Troopers. I love seeing all the different spy gadgets movies come up with. They always seem to find something fun and different. This has by far some of the most beautiful gory violence I have seen in film. The death scenes are brutal and incredibly creative. The ending was really well done.

Directing/Writing: Matthew Vaughn is a blast to watch. Every movie I have seen of his are just plain awesomeness. He has yet to make something that isn't fun. So this was co-written by Jane Goldman who collaborates with Vaughn a lot so it's no surprise that I would enjoy her too. Even her solo work on Woman in Black was good as well as X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is based off the work of Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar who both have good comics that were made into popular violence oriented movies. Dave Gibbons had Watchmen while Frank Millar was behind Wanted and the Kick-Ass films. The writing here is just fantastic. Everything said here usually has a meaning that is mentioned before or explained later. I also love all the little mentions of pop culture throughout. They really made an enjoyable world here. If a sequel is made I sure hope they return behind the scenes instead of someone else at the helm.

Final Thought: This has to be one really amazing movie. The acting was great. All the characters were fun to watch and get to know. The action was badass and really gets your attention. It has a lot of James Bondesque stuff in it while being much more mature than the latter. I liked how Mark Hamill played a character, but in the comics it was him as the one who first gets recruited. Anyways I really can't wait for a sequel because this was just so much fun. If you haven't seen it yet you better get on with it!

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A good movie

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 7 March 2015 11:53

Even though it was slightly unexpected, my step-son Nick decided we should watch this movie this month in the movie theater and I thought it was a nice surprise. To be honest, I don't think it was really amazing but it was very well made and quite entertainining. In fact, it reminded me of 'Stormbreaker', another British spy feature starring a teenager as the lead character played by Alex Pettyfer which was made almost a decade ago and which is nowadays pretty much forgotten for the right reasons. This time, they pretty much nailed it though. Indeed, the action scenes were pretty badass, the oneliners were funny and the concept was just pretty cool. And yet, pretty much like with the James Bond franchise so beloved by the director Matthew Vaughn, I still had a hard time to care for the whole thing. I mean, there were just so many things that were ridiculous and, of course, we are not supposed to take it too seriously but, then, what should I really care in this case? To be honest, I would be really surprised if they will really launch a franchise after this movie with such a competition at the box-office but we'll see. To conclude, all in all, it was a fun movie and it is definitely worth a look, especially if you like the genre.

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