J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Being better than what you were.

I had a hard work week this week, clocking in about 70 hours or so. I decided to reward myself by taking a weekend trip to the movies. My choice this time around was easy: I was bone tired, and wanted some good old fashioned over the top escapism. Lucky for me that Kingsman was released last week. I’d been keeping my eye on it ever since I saw the trailer months ago. It looked like it was going to suck, but I was intrigued for a few reasons.

1) Matthew Vaughn directed it. I’ve seen almost every movie he has directed/produced, and enjoyed all of them. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Layer Cake were thoroughly enjoyable British gangster films. Snatch in particular has a brilliant performance by Brad Pitt, and Layer Cake has Daniel Craig back before he became James Bond and had to be a badass in every performance he made. Kick Ass was great fun, and Kick Ass 2 was pretty good too.* X-Men: First Class is arguably the best X-movie. In short, he’s one of those names that I know that is synonymous with “You’re probably going to like this”.

*Kick Ass won me over early. That scene where Kick Ass first puts on his suit, goes to stop a pair of muggers, gets stabbed, and goes to the hospital? Brilliant.

2) Mark Millar came up with the concept. Most comic fans love him or hate him. I don’t really have a strong opinion of his work, considering how hit and miss it can be, but I am certain about one thing: Every movie based off one of his ideas is always irreverent, fun, and in on the joke. I enjoy that.

3) I love spy movies. And although that includes the more modern stuff like the Craig Bond movies, the Bourne movies, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I adore the more ridiculous spy movies even more. Kingsman looked like it was going to revere the retro styled spy genre moreso than modern movies do, so I knew that would probably make it fun to see, even if it turned out to not be that great of a movie. What I got was definitely a love letter to the 60s British spy TV shows, like The Avengers, The Prisoner, and The Man from UNCLE.

When I say The Avengers, I mean this guy, not Iron Man.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

What I liked:

The cast. Er, the supporting cast. The main character, Eggsy, is a decent protagonist. But in my opinion, he’s one of the weaker characters in the film. Not that it matters, though, because of the rest of the cast kicks butt. Mark Strong in a rare non-villainous role? Michael Caine looking stately and important? Samuel L. Jackson intentionally giving his famous booming voice a lisp, and being the exact opposite of a badass? It felt like everyone in the movie was having fun being characters they usually don’t get the chance to be – and it makes it more fun.

And Colin Firth. Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he steals this movie. He fills the Obi-Wan trope role, and plays the role of the badass gentleman spy perfectly. I know we won’t get it, but I’d rather see a sequel with him kicking butt instead of expounding on Eggsy. Sorry, the Luke Skywalker character is usually kind of boring.

Sorry kid, you just don’t fit the suit as well.

The action. One thing I love about Vaughn’s movies is that while sometimes it features an infamous shaky cam, it makes up for it by somehow still showing you exactly what is going on. It walks a line in style between Matrix style slowdown, and Bourne-style shaking. I’ve had friends comment that this movie didn’t have enough action to be an action movie, but I disagree. There’s plenty, because it serves to punctuate the different acts of the movie. There’s the pub brawl, that sets the tone early on. You get some extreme training exercises that are clever and exciting.

And then you have the church scene, which is probably destined to be one of the greatest action scenes in modern action movies. Seriously. It’s that good. It’s so good that the rest of the movie struggles to follow it. And rightfully so, I’d say.

The humor. This is a fun action movie, but it’s also a funny one. Samuel L. Jackson made me laugh every time he was on screen, and not because of his lisp. There are fancy McDonald’s dinners, a touch of toilet humor, and of course, the classic one liners. My personal favorite part, though, is scored to “Pomp and Circumstance”. Speaking of which…

The score. Whoever did the scoring is brilliant. It’s great music, and sets the tone right away. The opening has Dire Straits, and the climatic church scene is set to Freebird. It’s funny seeing a very British movie feature a lot of Southern rock, but hey. Good music is good music, and this movie has it in spades.

What I didn’t like:

Roxy. The main female lead in this movie is all kinds of weak. I’m not trying to make this into a feminist argument, because I feel caring about that in a movie like this is sort of misplaced. But the bottom line is… her character is basically built to be a super competent operative, even moreso than Eggsy himself. But in the climax of the movie, she is completely marginalized, and reduced to handling Eggsy’s phone calls. It’s baffling, really. It kind of reminds me of how Hermione is actually more competent at magic than Harry  Potter, but it doesn’t matter because Harry is the chosen one, so OF COURSE he’s always the one to save the day.* It’s not a huge nitpick, but it felt like wasted potential.

*Full disclosure: I’ve never actually read the Harry Potter books. I’ve just seen most of the movies. It’s the rare nerd franchise I don’t know a ton about, so if I got this wrong, my bad. But you know what I mean.

Eggsy. Funny how I can enjoy a movie so much when the two characters that SHOULD drive the movie and make it compelling… actually aren’t that interesting. I don’t know what it is about Eggsy, but I didn’t empathize with him much, outside of the few standard scenes where the richer guys are belittling him. There’s a whole theme to this movie about silver spoons, privilege, and plebeians vs patricians. I know what they were trying to do, but this movie felt like it was a high school english student trying to sound smart and add extra depth to a story that didn’t really need it that much.

But yeah. The main character isn’t that interesting. But it doesn’t matter, because the supporting cast is awesome.

 

The Verdict:

This movie isn’t super brilliant. But it knows what it is, and for the most part, it sticks with what it’s good at. It was a blast to watch, and was an excellent way to spend a weekend night. If I randomly saw it on TV or on Netflix, I’d definitely watch it again. That’s the mark of a great movie.

If I gave half stars, I’d say 4.5. But since I don’t, I’ll round up.

*****.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2015 by in Movies, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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