Adapted from The Secret Service, the titular organization is a non-governmental British intelligence agency funded by hereditary wealth that solves a variety of problems around the world. One Kingsman agent is Harry "Galahad" Hart (Colin Firth), whose protege dies in his service leaving behind a family. The child of that family, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) has grown up to be quite the chav and eventually gets himself in quite a pinch with the law. Given an unconditional favor as a child by Hart, Eggsy calls upon it and Hart come to the rescue--more than just getting Eggsy released from the police however, Hart offers Eggsy the opportunity at a vacant seat at the table of the Kingsman. Meanwhile, the murderer of the now perished Kingsman, is none other than billionaire tycoon and philanthropist, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who has a mysterious plan up his sleeve to solve global warming.
There is a minor transformation for Eggsy, although it's hardly motivated, and from there on forth, the story is actually pretty flat. It's half training montage as Eggsy and his fellow would-be Kingsmen undergo a dangerous set of exams to vie for the remaining spot. And the other half is spy film as Harry Hart tries to uncover what it is that Valentine is up to. But even the expected twist towards the final act doesn't really motivate anything and the film moves along on autopilot as Eggsy and the gang make their bid to stop Valentine's nefarious scheme.
Granted, the film does amusingly get in a myriad of references of classic spy films and television series and even weaves the awareness of them into the plot as Valentine and Eggsy, among others, refer to those films, subvert and also replicate them. It's an amusing shell for meta-aware comedy given the nature of the film itself, but it ends up being more clever than meaningful. Likewise, the violence on display in Kingsman is not unlike the variety seen in Kick-Ass: over the top and shocking, the film sometimes gleefully showing the chaos and destruction wrought by its characters. And there are several moments in the film that it goes on for an extended period of time almost making the plot seem to exist for these displays rather than the violence used to further the story.
And I think that's perhaps what makes Kingsman a bit disappointing as its running time could have actually packed in a real character transformation story. Instead Eggsy only really changes on the surface and there's no real testing of a change or growth to his character. Now, the glee with which Vaughn directs the film's action sequences has its merit, but Kingsman is easily overlong and the ended action sequences are one of the film's many excesses. I think the performers do fine with Firth doing an especially appreciable job in changing from his typical fare, but there really isn't much to any of their characters anyway.
Kingsman is, in the end, all surface and no depth. The characters, including our protagonist Eggsy, all go along the most obvious of rails and while there is some pleasure to both the meta-aware way the film handles its genre and the degree to which Vaughn is willing to go to shock the viewers, there really isn't anything more to the film than just that spectacle. It's still entertaining enough that those looking for an action spy film might still find Kingsman satisfying, but it's the hollow satisfaction of confection that's being consumed here. 6/10
- Director: Matthew Vaughn
- Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
- Principal Cast: Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong
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