Kingsman: The Secret Service Review: From One Era to the Next

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For a high-budget, mass appeal blockbuster like this, Kingsman couldn’t feel more like a passion project. Constantly winking at the audience and laughing at itself along with them, Kingsman is simply the most fun, and all-around best movie of 2015 so far.

Director Matthew Vaughn is in high form as he melds this spiritual successor to Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class with a flavor of its own, bringing the spy genre back to its goofy, high-octane roots, just with modern, stylized action. While it doesn’t avoid every cliche it intends to send up, the film gets more than enough right to be a rollicking good time.

You’ve heard the backstory before: a spy is killed in action, leaving his equally capable, though angsty, son in a broken household. When we catch up with Eggsy (Taron Egerton), he’s picking fights with his mother’s boyfriend and his goons, escaping by the skin of his nose through some exceptional parkour skills. Enter Harry Hart (Colin Firth loosening his tie and enjoying every second of it), who gives Eggsy the opportunity of a lifetime to become one of the Kingsman, an elite group of British spies that represent everything that make spies cool. Tailored suits, goofy gadgets, a charm that’ll make anyone weak in the knees, etc. It’s very much a celebration of the Sean Connery era of Bond films. That is, until we see an action sequence.

As Harry courts Eggsy, they’re approached by a few guys looking to rough Eggsy up. The seasoned spy starts the action by hurling a whiskey tumbler straight into the head of the leader by the hook of his umbrella. He ends it when his umbrella turns into a bulletproof shield and the tip becomes the barrel of a gun he uses to stun the remaining opposer. It happens so quickly and so fluidly that you’ll be left with a delightful jaw drop. After seeing this, Eggsy obviously joins the program so he can become a super awesome spy too.

But what would a spy movie be without an over-the-top villain? Kingsman has two: Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a McDonald’s lovin’, lisp-talkin’ tech mogul with plans to start the world anew with only the worthy people moving on, and Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), Valentine’s henchwoman with two prosthetic legs that contain blades capable of cutting a man in half from head to toe. They’re absolutely ridiculous, and the film is so much better for it.

That’s the true majesty of Kingsman: it’s ability to mesh the absurd with likable characters to create true tension. It’s a tough tone to strike, but one that Vaughn succeeded with in 2010’s superhero send-up Kick-Ass. But after the move to the spy genre, it’s clear this is where the director’s heart truly lies. SPECTRE is going to have a lot to live up to later this year. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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