by Mark Oguschewitz
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE may take us through some familiar territory, but thankfully it does so in a fresh and stylistic way. Director Matthew Vaughn gives us alove letter to every kind of spy movie and TV show that you can imagine. The movie playfully references everything from the Bond franchise to GET SMART. In short, KINGSMAN is a great time at the movies.
Based on a comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the film tells the story of a secret international spy organization that recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, into its extremely competitive training program. Of course, because this is a movie, the recruitment takes place just as a global threat begins to emerge from a twisted tech genius named Valentine.
Newcomer Taron Edgerton plays Eggsy in one of his very first feature film roles and he effectively takes on the challenge of performing opposite three of the industry’s most accomplished actors: Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson. Firth is perfectly cast as Eggsy’s mentor, Galahad, and seems to be having the time of his life playing this impeccably well-dressed spy who can kick a little butt when needed.
STAR WARS fans will delight in a cameo by Mark Hamill. He’s not in the film a whole lot, but he absolutely milks his scenes to the fullest.
Samuel L. Jackson is the real star in the cast though. As the story’s villain he gives us one of his best performances in years. Talking with a lisp, he plays Valentine with a cartoonish attitude that is pitch-perfect and Oscar worthy. Vaughn, who in 2010 gave us some amazing action set pieces in the film KICKASS, continues here with his no holds barred attitude towards cartoon style violence. He packs every shot with incredible detail and there’s so muuch creative energy going on that if you look away for just a second you might miss something great. His unique tone and style are used to perfection, transforming a familiar genre into something both playful and refreshing.
The script by Vaughn and Jane Goldman effectively delivers some first-rate escapist entertainment. Their love of spy films is made evident by the respectful winks and nods that are given to the genre throughout the film.
Now, I will have to admit that the movie loses its way for a little bit as it approaches the climax. All of a sudden it starts to feel rushed, as though some scenes might have been left on the cutting room floor to pick up the pace. Eventually, it finds it way back to the craziness though, leading up to a payoff moment during the climactic confrontation that is so perfectly insane, audiences will be glad they came to the film for this moment alone.
In a time when the studios are filling the theaters with a lot of reboots and re-imaginings, it is refreshing to see filmmakers take this concept and flip it on its head. KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is both smart and creative. If you’re looking for some over the top fun at the movies then this film is just what you are looking for.
An Addendum to the review by Skywalking Through Neverland Co-host Sarah Woloski: Please keep in mind that this movie is rated “R” for a reason. While I did like the film for it’s creativeness, cameos and acting, I had a hard time with some of the gorier aspects of the plot. I found myself averting my eyes during two entire sequences, one of which is the climax. Yes, it’s movie gore, but if you have a squeamish stomach, be forewarned. This movie is not for kids!