Like their previous collaboration Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an energetic parody of a beloved pulp genre from Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn. As is the trend nowadays, it is both tongue-in-cheek tribute and in-your-face takedown of the gentleman spy tale. Think Austin Powers mixed with ultra-violence.
I was quite apprehensive about this film throughout its creation. Mark Millar is one of the most polarizing figures in the comic book industry. His comics are an instant lightning rod for controversy. Despite the potential of both Kick-Ass 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, Matthew Vaughn dropped out of both to pursue this adaptation. Add the fact that this film’s release has been shuffled so many times and you can imagine my worry.
Millar has often been criticized for his needless “edginess”. His detractors often say his trademarks are ultra-violence, coarse language, and lackluster portrayals of women. All these are in the film. However, it should be noted that almost none of these came from Millar himself. In fact, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman only took a few of the basic concepts from Millar’s The Secret Service comic in writing the script, hence making the film completely their own. Wow. Here you have a film that is Mark Millar to a tee but it turns out to be the brainchild of Matthew Vaughn, the man who turned a mediocre Kick-Ass comic into a fun flick, and Jane Goldman, a female screenwriter. Imagine that.
For all its silliness, the film can get too serious at times. The satire becomes all heavy-handed when it’s too on the nose, even yacking off on climate change and politics. Even the lore regarding Kingsman’s organizational details are muddled at best. This is probably due to the film’s overall juvenile tone.
Nevertheless, Kingsman is a mostly fun romp. Vaughn and Goldman come up with creative ways to poke fun at cliches. They reference the gamut of spy pop culture from Avengers to James Bond. Those two must have spent so much time bouncing ideas off each other. Henry Jackman creates another score that perfectly compliments a Matthew Vaughn film. Vaughn employed his signature mix of slick action choreography and utter chaos to create memorable action scenes. One infamous scene, in particular, will go down in history.
Cast-wise, Samuel L. Jackson is the main highlight. His natural charisma gives the squeamish megalomaniac Richmond Valentine a distinct charm. Like Harry Hart (Colin Firth) says, a Bond film is only as good as its villain. Sadly, the British screen veterans in this picture (Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine) are simply going through the motions. Their portrayals are interchangeable with all their other generic roles. Only Mark Strong seems to be making an attempt.
The young leads are no less fortunate. Vaughn doesn’t bother to get distinct performances out of the talented and exceptionally thespian-trained Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson. Sofia Boutella was awesome as the deadly Gazelle but the character needed more dimensions and development to be truly captivating
Kingsman: The Secret Service is abundantly flawed and runs too long. Still, while it’s not as polished as Kick-Ass, it is a frenetic send-up of the spy flicks of yore.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars