Reviewed: Kingsman – The Secret Service (2014)

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Collin Firth: The Gentleman Spy

The Kingsman is a group of English secret agents, founded by wealthy London philanthropists after WWI. Its members draw code names from the Knights of the Roundtable, led by Arthur (Michael Caine) and their tech wizard, Merlin (Mark Strong).

Agent Lancelot has lost his life in the rescue attempt of a climate change scientist. The roundtable has an opening, and “Galahad” Harry Hart (Collin Firth) takes Gary “Eggsy” Unwin under his wing to mentor as Lancelot’s replacement. As Galahad tries to figure out who killed his fellow knight and why the world’s most influential people are disappearing, Eggsy and his friends compete in a deadly selection process to become the new Lancelot.

Kingsman draws inspiration from the spy movie genre. You have the gadgets, the martial arts, the maniacal villain, and the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it plot device, with one exception. In keeping with British humour, the movie wittingly pokes fun of its own storytelling tropes. For example, in an American dominated movie industry, it’s refreshing to see a full cast of British good guys, including Mark Strong, often cast as the foreign-accented villain in many Hollywood productions. As if to throw this point in the audience’s face, the movie’s villain, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), is an obnoxious, self-absorbed American billionaire who treats his dinner guests to McDonald’s. At one point, Valentine and Galahad even have a fiction-bending banter about their favourite spy movie and what direction the plot is supposed to go in next. Kingsman also features some creative and gory fight choreography, including the famous church massacre scene, the likes of which you’ll never see in a PG-13 Bond movie.

Kingsman: The Secret Service has enough sense to not take itself too seriously, with its tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre, while still being a great action-adventure. Colin Firth is the movie’s winning quality, perfectly embodying the virtues of the English secret agent. Manners Maketh Man, says Gallahad, and Firth maketh so. If you enjoy James Bond and the Wright and Pegg Cornetto trilogy, you’ll certainly enjoy Kingsman: The Secret Service. Looking forward to the sequel!

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