“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is one of 2015’s most ingenious movies thus far. The pleasantly surprising film lampoons the James Bond spy flick, a well-known genre. It’s a clever film, with brilliant acting, unforeseeable twists, and a superb balance of action and comedy.
In a flashback, Kingsman Agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) loses one of his men during an interrogation. Hart presents a medal to his wife Michelle (Samantha Womack) and son Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Jump seventeen years to the present, and climate specialist Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) is being held captive. Kingsman Lancelot (Jack Davenport) arrives to rescue Arnold, but he’s killed by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), an assassin with bladed feet, before her employer Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up.
Meanwhile, Eggsy, now 17 years old, lives with his mother, baby sister, and a tyrannical stepfather (Geoff Bell). The teenaged Eggsy has morphed into a juvenile delinquent, but he’s bailed out of jail after a recent carjacking by Agent Hart, also known as Gahalad. Hart proceeds to save Eggsy from a potential beating by a group of hooligans, before bringing him to the headquarters of the Kingsman. The secret service organization operates free from restrictive government constraints. Each operative has a Camelot codename, with Chester King aka Arthur (Michael Caine) as the head. It’s revealed that each Kingsman must produce a possible replacement for Lancelot. The selection process is facilitated by Merlin (Mark Strong). Eggsy and fellow recruit Roxy (Sophie Cookson), the final two candidates, team with Merlin to take down the maniacal Valentine.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is based on the graphic novel series The Secret Service, and it’s evident that the film has comic roots. Violence throughout is heavy handed, particularly during the finale, though it’s cartoonish, not bloody. Heads explode in bursts of color like a Holi Moli celebration, there’s an epic fight scene in a church, and a few unlucky folks are cut cleanly in half. The action largely mocks far-fetched thrillers like the 007 series. There’s a room of Q-worthy gadgets, a logically nonsensical villain (Valentine), and even martinis, which naturally must be ordered in a certain manner. “Kingsman” is quite meta, with a few discussions between Valentine and Hart which center on James Bond films.
“Kingsman” cleverly adopts and breaks the outlandish spy genre, with a veneer of James Bond parody, and several twists. Shocks abound, and though some are predictable, most are completely unexpected. Acting bolsters the already strong plot, with convincing performances. The roster reads like an awards list, with veterans Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Samuel L. Jackson in major roles, and seasoned thespians Michael Caine and Mark Hamill in fantastic supporting roles. Taron Egerton plays a spectacular Eggsy, transforming just enough as the film progresses, but remaining his street smart hip self. Firth feels natural as Galahad, and after watching “Kingsman,” you could even see him playing the legendary 007. Samuel L. Jackson really steals the show though as the color-coordinating, lisping villain who seeks to kill off most of the world’s population, but is terrified of blood.
Unfortunately, the finale wanes a bit into complete nonsense. Sure, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a caricature of the implausible Bond flick, but the over the top violence isn’t quite as shrewd as the incredible build-up. However, it’s a minor complaint about an otherwise brilliant and original film. A brief post-credits sequence brings “Kingsman: The Secret Service” satisfactorily full circle, and creates the possibility of a sequel. Ultimately, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a fun, clever, stylized action-comedy, much wittier than the trailer allows.