Kingsman is a very fun tongue in cheek take on the spy genre. It manages to walk a fine line between self-aware fun and outright slapstick very well. It falls slightly on the comedy side but does action pretty well too.
The main draw for this film is the dual spectacle of posh guy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) being the ultimate gentleman but also kicking ass when required and the street thug Eggsie (played by Taron Egerton) switching from foul mouthed wannabe gangster to gentleman spy.
The first draw is done pretty well and Colin apparently did a huge amount of training to be able to do most of his own stunts and fight scenes. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of special effects work has been done to augment the action scenes and a lot of Colin’s fighting looks a lot more fake than it probably was.
Unfortunately the second part doesn’t come across so well. Eggsie doesn’t make much progress towards becoming a gentleman besides using the F-word slightly less frequently and occasionally wearing a suit. I’m sure that this is intended to be the first in a series of films though so maybe he will get more gentlemanly in future instalments.
Kingsman is everything that modern Bond films are not (and in my opinion should strive to get back to). It has strong elements of action, subtle comedy and gadgetry but doesn’t allow any one theme to dominate the narrative. It doesn’t try to be an all out comedy or to compete with hardcore action films like the Bourne series or recent Bond but manages to find a comfortable and entertaining path of its own. Fittingly given the source material, the violence and the villains are over the top and cartoonish although nowhere near as much as other recent comic book movies.
Just occasionally, especially towards the end of the film, the action becomes just a little too ridiculous and starts to distract from the rest of the film. There’s a bit too much flying through the air with cameras zooming around improbably and not enough realistic looking action for my taste. Any distracting stupidity though is usually quickly redeemed by some good humour or a great gadget and the depiction of the hero’s final solution to the villain’s master plan is hilarious.
A lot of the younger supporting cast are disappointingly underused. Most of the people training alongside Eggsy are briefly sketched in and then even more briefly dismissed from the training program and therefore from the film. Only a couple have a little more screen time and even the one who gets the most is still woefully underused. In fact according to the special features interviews they shot a lot more scenes with these characters but they didn’t make it into the final film. The older supporting actors (Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill among them) are given a lot more screen time and all make good use of it.
The gadgets are fun and quirky, exactly what you’d expect to see in an early bond film; bulletproof umbrella guns, exploding cigarette lighters, poison tipped knives in shoes and dart shooting wristwatches to name but a few. It is fun to see them used and they add to the action rather than feeling like the action has been specifically contrived to allow their use.
Samuel L Jackson is a good villain, lisping he way through his dialogue and giving his character a more human side than most villains get in spy movies. His plans to take over the world are not particularly new but are interesting in their implementation and fun in their undoing.
Overall a fun and funny spy film with some great gadgets and good action sequences. You could accuse it of style over substance and there are some crass and obnoxious parts that I would haven’t chosen to include. It would have been nice to see more from the younger cast members.