When the gentlemen spy genre acquires an R-rating, an entirely new type of hero emerges. With director Matthew Vaughn’s imaginative screenplay style and expertise founded in former films like “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” he welcomes into the cinematic universe somewhat of a James Bond/”Kick-Ass” hybrid in one of this year’s more satisfying surprises. Meet the Kingsman, the world’s most elite, secret spy agency.
Based on the acclaimed comic book of the same name, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” follows the crude yet capable Gary “Eggsy” Unwin as he evolves from street to 007 status through an aggressively competitive training program. His mission: foil the malicious plot of billionaire, lisp-inflicted Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and save the world. What follows is the most outrageously hilarious and successfully risky films to hit theaters this year.
Satirically taking on the genre of the gentleman spy, the film excels in areas where many films fail simply because its bold, sarcastic exaggerations grant it a free pass from seemingly all errors in continuity, factual and miscellaneous other goofs. “Kingsman” embraces goofy in such a lighthearted manner, most – if not all – incoherencies are forgivable. “This isn’t that type of movie,” characters would clarify as cliché tropes seemed to creep in. Dialogue even openly discussed popular agents like James Bond (“Casino Royale”), Jason Bourne (“The Bourne Identity”) and Jack Bauer (“24”) as part of the spoof. Much like director Drew Goddard’s “Cabin in the Woods” (2012), “Kingsman” borderlines parody and sarcasm by exploiting the genre’s stereotypes, then suddenly denying those approaching clichés their fulfillment – brilliant!
But even with this aforementioned “free pass,” how does the film fare as a whole? Well. Very well. Phenomenally. It’s no “Shawshank Redemption” (1994) in terms of story and character development, but then again, it would be unfair to compare the two. As a matter of fact, I’ll be honest – the story and characters are as straightforward as it gets. But again, for the sake of fairness, the weight of the film isn’t dependent on elaborate or systematic fluff. It is reliant on entertainment, comedy and beautifully stylized (albeit violent) action sequences – none of which disqualify the story’s ability to survive independently. The point is, even without complexity and profundity, the story is there, well-paced and stimulating.
Amidst the over-the-top, gory-yet-hilarity-ensuing action scenes, the film accomplishes a reasonable degree of believability in an unbelievable world. Almost nothing is outside the realm of plausibility, yet the film showcases a series of events that work given its context. As far-fetched as it all may seem, the film makes the risk, apologizes for no one and effectively balances conceivability and fiction.
It’s upsetting that “Kingsman” lost the holiday weekend to “50 Shades of Grey,” a film originating as fan-fiction from “Twilight” (let that sink in). Despite this poor life-choice of Western society (a conversation I’m willing to save for another time), “Kingsman” exceeded many expectations, taking $42 million from the U.S. box office over the four day holiday weekend. Considering the overwhelmingly positive reviews and, of course, the lack of serious competition, I expect the film to continue doing well in the coming weeks. Here’s hoping for a sequel!