"Manners maketh man. Do you know what that means? Then let me teach you a lesson. Are we going to stand around here all day, or are we going to fight?"
Kick-Ass was his love letter to superhero films, and Stardust felt the same way about the fantasy genre. Now Matthew Vaughn is tackling the spy scenario with Kingsman. Once again he takes a genre we think we’re comfortable with, and blows us away in so many ways.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a kid on the wrong side of the law, being chased by pretty much everyone that he’s offended in the past. But he suddenly finds himself recruited by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) as part of a secret and elite group of agents called the Kingsman. As Eggsy undergoes a bizarre and brutal training regime, an eccentric billionaire (Samuel L Jackson) threatens to wipe out most of the world’s population.
Make no mistake, though it pays tribute to the classic Bond films Kingsman is definitely a modern film. It uses the 21st technology to full advantage to make some of the crazy 007 gadgets of yesteryear if anything, even madder. And it’s brilliant.
You expect Colin Firth to play this part with sophistication and intelligence. You alos expect the Oscar Winner to have passion and effort behind his role and you see him use a fair amount of charisma and humour to make a very enjoyable character. What you don’t expect is for him to be pretty decent action star. At so many points in this movie I found myself thinking ‘Who knew King George Kicked so much ass. He seems to be having the time of his life while he’s doing it as well, just like I was.
We may have seen a rise in the serious and excellent Bond films of recent years. But a small part of me misses the fun and stereotypes of Scotch drinking brits that fight off eccentric baddies and either dealing with or dodging beautiful women with various traits that make them razor sharp in more ways than one. If you are like me then fear not because Vaughn’s film has enough of all of that to make Bond look a bit, well dare I say, boring.
Newcomer Taron Egerton would seem in danger of being outmatched against such a strong cast (that also includes Michael Caine and Mark Strong) but his charisma successfully clashes with Firth to make him stand out and hold his own. The rough edges of his character show clearly and he appears to be the latest instalment of new talent to come from Vaughn.
There is one slight problem in the fact that if you expect foul, fun and filthy fighting from the fire-line then you may be disappointed. Kingsman’s first half is rather conventional and tame, with subplots that sometimes feel disjointed. However you can easily look past that as the next half gets into top speed and never slows down. It bombards you with the mad melee of Firth shooting, stabbing, strangling and at one point singlehandedly demolishing a church and its angry congregation. As well as this, I like to think that Vaughn has started to grow up a bit as a filmmaker. Here he shows an ability to show restraint when necessary to deliver a truly exhilarating film that pauses when it needs to.
Further proof of Vaughn’s maturity comes from the fact that Kingsman may be a tribute to the classic era of spy films, it is keen to point out its problems. The secret service assembled of White upper-class males that need to change to keep up with the modern world. The familiar spy plot and scenarios are kept fresh and entertaining with that strong sense of familiarity that is not afraid to turn things up.
It may be incredibly risky and it may also be the most fun I’ve had this year. It’s a love letter to spy films with style, substance,one that is also very smart, and I haven't even mentioned Samuel L Jackson yet.