Film Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service (2014)

“I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam”

Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman’s collaboration on comic book adaptation Kick Ass went rather well for them, so reuniting for spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service – based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons – seemed like a no-brainer. So much so that Vaughan walked away from directing X-Men: Days of Future Past for this project, and it is indeed a whole heap of fun, poking irreverently at the often po-faced spy film genre with great glee.

The film follows mouthy teenager Gary “Eggsy” Unwin as he is recruited and trained up by the same secret spy organisation that his long-dead father belonged to, ultimately having to wise up quickly as a plot by an evil megalomaniac threatens the whole world. So far so Bond, but where Kingsman shines is in ramping everything that 007 can’t do up to 12. So there’s huge amounts of creative swearing,  and more gratuitous violence than you can shake a bag of severed limbs at.

Taron Egerton is great value as Eggsy, ill at ease in the training programme that seems to be full of Oxbridge types (including a stacked Edward Holcroft) but soon proving his worth through the intense training exercises. And supporting him is an array of classy talent – Colin Firth’s deadpan Galahad is the father figure he never knew he had, Mark Strong’s dryly amusing Merlin is Q on supercharged acid and Michael Caine is good fun as Arthur, the distrustful Kingman head.

And it’s all rather good fun – the fight choreography is particularly stunning – as long as you don’t take it too seriously, as indeed it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which is fine to a point, though the more self-consciously self-referential bits are a bit painful, and there’s something a little curious about the way in which the plot unfolds.

Samuel L Jackson’s motivations as the evil mastermind are actually pro-environmental and nothing is made of it, the Kingsmen appear to be deeply conservative in maintaining the energy lobby’s status quo. And the final scene – intended as a cheeky nod to Bond’s predilection for ending each mission in bed with a lady – hits a definite bum note, mistaking satirising crassness for actual crassness.

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