A slick, black tuxedo. A sleek, sexy Aston Martin. The satisfying *click* of the gun, followed by the dominant and powerful *BOOM* of the bullet. It’s difficult to imagine a time when spy movies haven’t been the epitome of cool. Today, most of that glamor and overflowing machismo has been replaced by the comic book movie. Substitute tuxedo for costume and the gun with super powers and you essentially have the same thing. So what better material to bring to the screen for contemporary audiences than a comic book franchise about a team of spies?
Kingsman: The Secret Service, adapted from the comic series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, finds Academy Award winner Colin Firth as Agent Galahad, a veteran agent of the elite secret service agency “The Kingsmen.” When Agent Lancelot (Jack Davenport) dies during a rescue mission in Argentina, each Kingsman must recruit a new youngster to take his place. Each teen, including Galahad’s pick, a scrappy lad named Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton), battles for the spot in a series of tests to prove their worth as an agent. Imagine X-Men, but with spies. Meanwhile, eccentric billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) spreads his wealth and kindness by providing the world with free Internet and phone service via a universal SIM card. Or is he not so kind after all? Cue suspenseful music.
Above all, Kingsman is a whole lot of fun. The film’s fast paced action sequences are well-edited and sleekly designed, while the normally quiet and unassuming Firth makes for a surprisingly adept and suitable action star. Jackson is great casting, as well. The staggered smoothness he uses to deliver his lines brings a much needed sense of humor and lightness to the kooky Valentine character. Along with such ludicrous elements as kaleidoscopic exploding heads and a hench woman with knives for feet, Jackson helps to bring a delightfully fun kitsch value to the material.
It’s a shame that Kingsman‘s depiction of gender isn’t nearly as laudable. Every woman in the film is practically worthless and in constant need of support. Even though one of the young women in the spy program is shown to advance quite highly, she screws up every assignment she’s given and needs constant encouragement from Eggsy. Even more problematic is the Princess Tilde character, who after being imprisoned for a long period of time immediately presents the character who rescues her with a gift of anal sex. It may fit in well with the film’s quirky and kitschy feel, but that doesn’t make it okay.
The main man of the cast doesn’t fare much better. Eggy is written as a destructive and reckless punk and Egerton’s skills as an actor fail to excel the character as anything better. Unlikable protagonists can be quite effective in the right situation, but not when they are supposed to be all noble and “full as potential” as Galahad claims him to be. If it weren’t for the presence of Firth and Jackson, Kingsman might have been an annoying mess.
Imperfect as it may be, Kingsman is an ultimately entertaining flick that ends with a satisfying finish. In a time when the majority of action flicks are more boom than brains, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a fun, welcome addition to the Hollywood lineup.