Okay, I’m not really certain that I can classify this as a speculative fiction film, as at its heart, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy-fi film. I discussed when I reviewed The Avengers (the movie based on a British TV show, not the Marvel one) how there is a terrific spy-fi genre that isn’t really around now. Shows like The Prisoner and certain James Bond movies often had the same elements of spy-fi like a meglomaniac who wants to rule or destroy the world, quirky side characters, and skillful and alluring heroes. They also had very groovy setpieces. About the only spy-fi of its type I have found similar to it is the Austin Powers series, and they are more parody than anything.
Kingsman is based on a comic book by Mark Millar. If you aren’t familiar with this man, he created a few comics that have become movies, like Kick-Ass and Wanted. I don’t read a lot of modern day comics, but Wanted is an excellent comic about an ordinary man who becomes a super-villain. I didn’t like this movie version, but the comic is probably one of the best that I have read, but it is also quite violent and sexual. This is the biggest problem that I had with this movie that I otherwise wanted to love.
Let me start by explaining the premise. There is a super-secret agency who operates independently to keep the world safe for democracy. This organization, the Kingsman, has a complex backstory that is explained in an elevator, but there is a leader named Arthur (Michael Caine), a gadget master named Merlin (Mark Strong), and you can see the Camelot influence. This could be a James Bond movie with M and Q respectively, and many have said that Kingsman: The Secret Service is what would happen if Quentin Tarantino directed a James Bond movie.
That is a pretty good comparison, and I will talk about this more later. The film follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a character who had a father who was a Kingsman. Eggsy’s father and friend is Gallahad, played by Colin Firth, and Gallahad recruits Eggsy when he gets him into trouble. rom there, the film suddenly becomes Men in Black as it follows Eggsy as he is recruited as the new Kingsman.
It is pretty obvious that Eggsy is going to be the hero, and the recruitment is very hardcore. Seriously, there is a scene where the recruits’ bunkhouse is flooded, and one of the recruits dies. This seems pretty needlessly dramatic, and this is one of the complaints that I have about the film. I’m going to share more about this after the jump.
The film introduces the villain Valentine, played by legendary Samuel L. Jackson. Valentine is sort of like Steve Jobs, but he plays it like Samuel L. Jackson plays his characters, and adds a lisp with it. It is really playing against type, and it works. While I’m talking about playing against type, I’ve seen Colin Firth in romances and dramas before, but in this film, he is an action hero of high caliber. It works too.
Valentine has a plan to reduce the world’s population by sending out a signal that brings out people’s most violent nature. The way he send this signal out is promising a free SIM card to give everyone Free Long Distance, Forever. His plan is to release the signal on everyone so they will kill each other, but he has a 1 percent ruling class that he wants to keep alive. He marks these guys with some kind of chip in them, and I don’t know if this new Illuminati is acting under mind control or freely giving themselves to Valentine. The film leaves this open-ended.
Now, I finally am going to get what I didn’t like about this film. In most films like these, there is a scene where the villain tests out their weapon before they use it for their master plan. In this case, Valentine uses it on a “hate group church”. They show this church as anti-gay, anti-abortion, and they use the N-word.
When Valentine uses his hate SIM card, it actually has his logo on the phone. That is pretty stupid, and what happens next is very Tarantino-esque. Essentially, Gallahad becomes like the church members, and start killing each other, he uses a revolver.
Now there are several ways to interpret this scene, and it feels like an homage to Tarantino’s Kill Bill. In this film, the scene of a slaughter has gallons of fake blood which makes the scene a bit less serious tone, as well as some 70’s groovy music. In Kingsman, there is the Llynyrd Skynyrd Free Bird song playing as a slaughter happens.
It wasn’t until after the film was over before I realized what bothered me about this scene, because the scene in Kill Bill didn’t bother me as Uma Thurman takes on a room full of evil assassins. In this film, I suppose the hate group had it coming, but Gallahad takes part in the slaughter, which feels rather…unnecessary. So we have a man with a gun shooting up a church, like maybe…Charlotte?
I’m not going to say that this film inspired the recent Charlotte church shootings, but I will say that if Charlotte had occurred before Kingsman had been released, then Kingsman would have been postponed. What is really interesting is how this hate church has a Confederate flag in front.
Yes, it is an odd coincidence. There is another scene of violence that is done very gratuitously. Remember how I said that Valentine put a chip in his ruling class? In one scene, Merlin figures out how to make the chips explode taking out that 1 percent once and for all. Even the American president, who looks like an African-American, has his head explode like fireworks.
This is a film that is made for those who believe that they are the 99 percent, so I don’t know how dated this film will look in the next few years. The issue is that it does succeed in a reverent parody of James Bond films, and there are scenes where the characters talk about spy movies. Seriously, they do that.
I will have to say that Kingsman is an enjoyable ride, and I like the film because of that. One thing I didn’t like is the ending, as Eggsy gets a girl, but it is downright pornographic.