For decades, the most important cinematic spy was James Bond. He started out kind of mean and gritty with Dr. No, and was eventually hang gliding off of a calving iceberg and driving an invisible car in Die Another Day. The arrival of Jason Bourne forced Bond back into a more grounded universe. Which is fine, but I do kind of miss the crazier spy stuff.
Hollywood, it seems, agrees with me, and so they made Kingsman, a wild and crazy piece of escapist cinema. The premise is that there is a shadowy organization of — I love this — tailors who inherited crazy money from their employers who died in World War I. That sounds like the purest hokum, but it makes for a great origin story, and gives them leave to set major scenes inside a bespoke tailoring shop in London.
Another thing I love is the very American idea that Eggsy (our young hero, played by Taron Egerton) can prove that gumption and wherewithal can win out over heredity. He’s the pick of Harry (Colin Firth) to fill a recently vacated position in the Kingsman rolls. Everyone else (including Michael Caine) thinks he’s a low-class thug who’ll never amount to anything.
When you have an origin story like this, often the training sequences are the best part, and when the new agent is thrust into the action, it all feels a little like an addendum. Thankfully, the bad guy and his plan feature prominently in the film from the first few minutes. Samuel L. Jackson plays an internet billionaire (with an entirely unnecessary lisp) with one of those “the cure is worse than the disease” plans to make the world a better place. And, like any good Bond villain, he’s got a henchwoman with a gimmick, Sofia Boutella, wearing sharpened leg prostheses.
This film earns its R rating, and then some. Some of the imagery is truly ridonculously violent. But it’s also done so tongue-in-cheek that you can’t really be horrified. I’ve heard that people were turned off by the scene in the church, which is teased in the trailer, but is much more intense than you might imagine. I wasn’t bounced out of the film. I was pulled in by that scene and all that it implies. I think they earned the right to put that on film, and they handled it correctly. Unlike some piece of torture porn, the film doesn’t condone violence, it uses it to build tension. I respect that.
It’s entirely possible that this film will be forgotten in five years, but I found it impressive, thought-provoking, exciting and hilarious.
Jack Davenport was in Kingsman: The Secret Service with Michael Caine. Michael Caine was in…