James Bond Meets Kick-Ass in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
There’s a good chance Matthew Vaughn snorts cocaine. Lots of it. The first signs came with 2010’s Kick-Ass, the Mark Millar-based graphic novel adaptation he directed and co-wrote with frequent collaborator Jane Goldman. Sporting a foul-mouthed 13-year-old killing machine in Hit Girl, brutal violence and real, actual consequences for the hero’s actions, Kick-Ass felt like a jolt to the superhero genre. The entire film felt like Vaughn laughing at what he’d gotten away with, retreating every now and then to the bathroom for another snort of powder. With Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn is back, complete with a stash of cocaine that’s doubled in size and tripled in potency.
Another Millar adaptation, Kingsman finds Colin Firth in the rare role of action hero, playing a member of a double secret spy organization known as The Kingsman. After an agent is literally cut in half, the organization goes in search of a replacement, one of which is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the trouble-making son of a former Kingsman agent. While Eggsy clashes with the more well-to-do trainees, Firth’s Harry Hart investigates an Internet magnate named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, sporting a lisp and a penchance for McDonald’s), whose been kidnapping world leaders – and Iggy Azalea – for some nefarious plan. It’s a standard late Sean Connery/early Roger Moore era James Bond type of plot, complete with a henchman that has knives for legs.
Kingsman, above all else, is Vaughn’s love letter to the spy genre. There are homages to previous spy movies all over the place, but more so without 50 years of genre conventions to use as a platform, nobody without some form of hallucinogen in their body wouldn’t have a clue what to make of Kingsman. Without grounding itself in the genre, and I use the phrase grounding very lightly, the film would have nothing to hold onto except its own insanity. Well, that and Colin Firth.
With his stuffy British attitude and sharp wit, Firth takes everything in stride that Vaughn throws at him, which barely keeps Kingsman from spiraling into a fever dream of violence and ridiculousness. Actually most of the cast, with their restrained Birtish-ness and impeccable manners, lends an extra bit of ironic lunacy to Kingsman. Once Vaughn yanks the ball away from Firth, Charlie Brown style, things don’t just rise to the unapologetic levels of Kick-Ass. It spits on that and brazenly forges ahead into insanity, refusing to apologize and daring anyone brave enough to hang on for dear life.
At some point between pre-production and the release of Kingsman, there is no way Vaughn didn’t have at least one massive giggle fit, amazed that he was not only able to make a film as unapologetic and entertaining as this, but that Academy Award winners Firth and Caine, not to mention nominee Jackson, all came along for the ride.