Kingsman, directed by Matthew Vaughn, offers the perfect antidote to the February gray. In essence a spy-spoof, the movie combines the violence of Kill Bill and the goofiness of Austin Powers, with strains of Kick-Ass thrown into the mix. That should come as no surprise, given that Kingsman is based on a comic written by the duo also responsible for the story undergirding Kick-Ass. Kingsman lacks Kick-Ass’ keen wit, but nonetheless remains solidly entertaining throughout.
The film is a brilliant display of team effort, with cast members playing off one another with skill. Titan amongst them is Colin Firth, playing a gentleman spy with a swearing habit. He is part of a top-secret agency called Kingsman—an MI5-type outfit that operates outside government jurisdiction (but isn’t sinister, okay?). The “Kingsmen” are the self-styled new knights of the modern era, there to protect the humdrum populace from threats, while wearing bulletproof Savile Row suits. From the start of the movie, when we see Arab soldiers bombed to Sting’s “Money for Nothing,” it is clear that diplomatic sensitivity isn’t priority. The film is meant to be irreverent and anarchic, not politically correct.
Kingsman’s plot is refreshingly legible for a spy movie. Seventeen years prior to the main denouement, a Kingsman agent is killed in the field, leaving his wife and baby Eggsy to fend for themselves. But before the agent dies, he saves the life of Firth’s character (alias Galahad), who thus resolves to repay the dead spy back in the best way that he can. By the time we meet Eggsy again, he has become a tough London teenager, hard-knuckled and cynical. Galahad sees potential in the youngster and puts his name forward for “the most dangerous job interview in the world” at Kingsman HQ. To become a spy himself, Eggsy must compete against other elite adolescents, for the most part, posh assholes, and who plot to kick him off the program.
No spy film is complete without a villain intent on upsetting the status quo. Cue Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a lisping tech billionaire who wants to render internet access free for all. The Kingsmen must work together to unpick Valentine’s dastardly plans—no easy feat, given he is aided by a lethal assistant, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who wears Pistorius-style prosthetic legs that she uses to slice up her enemies.
The film is not perfect. The first 30 minutes offer a dated exposé of British youth culture, including seemingly every cliche about modern roughnecks. Eggsy and his mates call each other “bruv”; they chew the fat, fist-fight and jack cars to the now snoringly familiar tones of Dizzee Rascal. But the movie soon gets its act together, leaving the class commentary behind and getting down to what it’s good at: very violent and very silly comedy. Kingsman is not perhaps quite as funny or as smart as Kick-Ass, but it is still a fun romp that will brighten up the dullest of February nights.