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Kingsman: Secret Service

Fox // R // June 9, 2015
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeremy Biltz | posted June 23, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
It does seem that spy movies have gotten a bit dour recently. They desperately needed the proverbial kick in the pants, to get recharged and made fun again. At least, that's the opinion of Matthew Vaughn, who previously brought us Kick Ass and X-Men First Class. And to solve this dilemma of over seriousness, he decided to make Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Harry Hart, a/k/a Galahad (Colin Firth) is a consummate gentleman and an agent for the independent intelligence agency The Kingsmen, drawn from England's upper crust. He feels bad that a man dies saving his life, and so when the man's son Eggsy (Taron Egerton) grows up to be somewhat troubled and froward, Hart offers him a chance to join the elite team. Eggsy agrees, since it's probably that or jail, and his training begins, competing against a group of other young men and women who all want the one remaining opening. In parallel to the training, Hart and the Kingsmen are on the trail of a criminal mastermind named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who, along with his assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who is a double amputee with sharp blades for feet, plan on doing something less than savory to solve this overcrowding problem the world seems to have.

If Vaughn wanted to inject a bit of fun back into the super spy genre, he certainly succeeded, but he also added a large dose of brutality. He's never shied away from that, just see Kick Ass for examples, and while it is done in a certain comic book style, those who are turned off by ultra-violence ought to steer clear. I am not such a one, and my wife and I enjoyed the gratuitous mayhem, even laughing at a few exploding heads. There is a particular set piece at the fictional equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church that is incredibly violent and bloody, and goes on for some time. The Nice thing about Kingsman is that Vaughn doesn't fall prey to the many discombobulating and annoying cheats that action directors often do. In particular, though there is some fast cutting, it isn't so fast and jarring that the audience can't keep track of what is happening, and we can see and enjoy the skill of the stunt performers and actors as they execute their ballet of carnage. The action sequences are incredibly well done and, most importantly in films such as this, loads of fun. Vaughn is always happy to sacrifice realism for spectacle, and it serves him well here.

And we need to talk about the cast. Sheesh. How much better do you get than Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Hamill? The mix of classical training, action and nerd appeal is perfect. And all of these guys bring their game. There are no phoned in performances to speak of and the newcomers are good too. Egerton as Eggsy and Sophie Cookson as Roxy, Eggsy's main competition for the open Kingsman position, are great, and have no problem going toe to toe with the heavy hitters in the cast. And everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. For this kind of film, that's very important.

Of course, no spy movie is ever better than its villain, and Mr. Jackson provides a deliciously wicked one. A billionaire philanthropist who gave up on advocating for climate change action because nothing ever got better, he is a true believer. He thinks that what he is doing is right and good, as any villain worth his salt does, and a few billion deaths are unfortunate but necessary. He can't stand the sight of blood or violence himself, and leaves most of that kind of thing to Gazelle, who positively revels in it. When he makes his pitch for his plan to solve global warming and overpopulation, as he does to several characters, it actually makes a kind of perverse sense. He doesn't act stupidly and has the wit to maneuver against the very bright Harry Hart and his cohorts. He is a very good villain indeed.

If you're looking for an introspective spy film, or hero, I'd suggest you seek out Skyfall or another of the Daniel Craig Bond films. You won't find that kind of thing in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It may not be super thoughtful, and it may be vulgar at times (in particular one off color joke caused some controversy), and it may be exceptionally violent, but it makes up for all of this with buckets of charm and a well-developed sense of fun. Highly Recommended.


The image is 2.39:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. There's a hint of jerkiness to things, particularly during the action scenes, but the colors are bright and the image is clear and crisp. From time to time, it suggests the experience of a first person shooter video game, but not in an awkward Uwe Boll sort of way. The film looks good.

The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 channel, and sounds very good. Music plays a big part in the feel of the film, and is very well presented here, with a fat, thumping bass line and encompassing sound. The audio generally is crisp and the dialogue is easily discernible. And if you have troubles, subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and many more, and there are a quite a few alternate language tracks.

There are a number of extras included. They are:

Kingsman: The Secret Service Revealed
This is an hour and a half of featurettes covering all manner of things, like how the story was adapted from the original comic to the screen, the casting process, Vaughn's distinctive style, the gadgets, costumes, and much more. This is actually quite engaging.

There are galleries of behind the scenes shots, sets and props.

Theatrical Trailer
A pretty cool trailer that runs to 2:22.

Sneak Peek
Trailers are included for Spy, X-Men Days of Future Past: Rogue Cut and Unfinished Business.

Final Thoughts:
Kingsman: The Secret Service isn't your granddad's spy movie, and that's fine. It is a violent, funny, action-packed experience that values fun over dramatics, but doesn't scrimp on those either. If one has a taste for Vaughn's style, this is more of the same, but kicked up a notch or two. This is how popcorn movies are supposed to be.

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Highly Recommended

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