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Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Rarely have I ever looked forward to February films but this year it seems like it’s not so much the cast-offs that are getting thrown into the Month that Time Forgot, it’s the films that aren’t sequels, remakes, or huge blockbusters based on well known franchises.

Fresh from my winter vacation I went to the theater to check out Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I wanted to see it specifically because the previews made it look way, way, waaaay too much fun to be coming out this month.

And I was right.  This film is a blast from start to finish.

Based on a comic book penned by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons and directed by Matthew Vaughn (whose credits include Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) it focuses on the a secret society that holds itself above laws and politics.  They act in secret and their only purpose is to preserve law and order.

The film opens in 1997 with an attack on a compound in the Middle East that leads to one promising Kingsman recruit dying to save the lives of everyone else.  Galahad (Colin Firth) feels responsible and offers the dead man’s wife a small talisman with a number engraved on the back.  He tells her to call the number should she ever need anything, but in her grief she refuses it.  Galahad then gives it to her young son Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and asks the boy to take care of his mother.

Flash forward almost two decades and Eggsy is a driftless lowlife despite being incredibly intelligent, athletic and gifted.  One thing leads to another and he calls the number on the back of the talisman which gets him not only out of prison, but placed in with a group of recruits all vying to fill a vacant position within Kingsman.

Meanwhile, Galahad is working with Arthur (Michael Caine) and Merlin (Mark Strong) to try unravel the mystery of why Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) was kidnapped.  There are very few clues but eventually the trail leads to billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).

This leads to a whole lot of stuff happening in a whole lot of locations, including Kentucky, several thousands of feet in the air and a base carved out of a mountain.

Included in this ‘stuff’ is action.  Lots and lots of action.  From glorious one-on-one fight scenes to brawls involving dozens of people, this movie was a fight choreographer’s wet dream.  No sequence felt like a copy of any other, and despite there being so many they never get boring.

I really have to chalk that up to the sheer imagination present in the film.  Sure, we’ve had spies with cool gadgets for decades but the ones present here are increasingly clever.  They include a bulletproof umbrella that can fire solid-shot rounds to stun an opponent, a watch that can shoot darts to put a person to sleep or cause amnesia, and a neuro-toxin coated dagger hidden in a shoe.

That doesn’t include what may be the coolest ‘henchman’ seen on screen since Oddjob.  Gazelle may be Valentine’s assistant, but she’s the ass-kicker of the duo.  She doesn’t really need any weapons because she has…two prosthetic legs.  Don’t let her appearance fool you, though.  Not only is she quick and skilled, but her prosthetics contain extendable blades that can literally cut someone in half.

The only place the film is truly lacking is in character development.  We see get only the most cursory glances of Eggy maturing, and despite there being other candidates for the Kingsman position in the film, they were mostly just filler.

Despite being just over two hours long, Kingsman feels far shorter, being chock full of everything anyone could ever want from an action film.  There are fantastic fight sequences, entertaining dialog, and even a few good quotes.  The plot, though convoluted and downright silly, works perfectly because this movie knows exactly where it stands.

As an added bonus, it was great just watching so many well-respected and usually serious actors punching, swearing and joking their way through the film.

It’s not a super-serious Bond film, nor is it a parody.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek action film that can stand on its own two (prosthetic) legs.