Spy movies are a dime a dozen. There’s so many, you have to be truly unique to standout for the audience to take notice. Matthew Vaughn has not only taken the challenge, but he may have just made every other spy series obsolete with Kingsman: The Secret Service. The film has the DNA of the Roger Moore era James Bond films, turning the tropes level up to 11, and letting the violence and insanity of it all play out in a way we’ve never quite seen before. It’s a loving send up to the spy genre in the same way that Vaughn similarly did to the superhero genre with Kick-Ass, but this really feels like the stronger film.
Vaughn has a very particular eye and outlook, and his films always feel different than all the others around. Kingsman feels like it has caffeine flowing through its veins, because from its opening moments, the movie doesn’t stop, never lets up, and just gets crazy. There’s a frantic nature to it that actually feels similar to that of what Wright did with The Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and that nature really carries the film. The self aware nature of it all really helps as well, because it really gives the film the chance to be over the top, cheesy, and completely ridiculous, but we completely buy into it all. Even if there’s absolutely no way that the most over the top scenes could happen, Vaughn made the film so dynamic and fun, it feels like it could happen in this world.
But this also has a fantastic cast that helps flesh out the world as well. Colin Firth is having a blast as Harry Hart, and the role is so different than what we’re used to seeing him in, which makes it that much more fun. Seeing Mr. Darcy shooting people and causing mayhem makes it all that much sweeter. This film really belongs to Taron Egerton, who plays Eggsy, a charming and fantastic relative newcomer who turns out to be one of the film’s biggest highlights. He’s very charismatic, manages to go toe-to-toe with Firth, Jackson, Strong, and Caine, and still shines. He’s definitely a rising, and it’s great Vaughn discovered him. His character learns and grows so much, really getting fleshed out by the time the credits close, and his transformation is feels natural, as well as earned.
A good spy movie is only as good as its villain though, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine and his henchwoman Gazelle are two of the most fun villains in some time. Jackson’s Valentine character is the stereotypical Bond villain, but he has a small quirk: he hates violence and blood. It’s hilarious, and it makes the character so much fun to watch. It helps that the cheesy nature of the character with the lisp and his whole outlook is just insane, you can’t help but love him even though he’s completely crazy. Gazelle has a great presence as well, thanks to Sofia Boutella and the character’s cool sword legs. These archetypes are so fitting from what we expect from a Bond film, seeing them being so overdone is absolutely ridiculous and fun.
Really though, you can’t talk about a spy film without mentioning the action, and Vaughn brings that in spades here. Kingsman features some of the most well put together, exciting, and flat out fun set pieces that have been on film in some time. There’s just a real crazy nature to it all, and every action scene is different, well choreographed, and memorable. The actors really throw themselves into it all, and you can tell they had a blast. It’s that feel that also gives the film it’s semi off kilter humor, which should be expected from any Vaughn film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is violent, offensive, funny, and absolutely crazy, everything you could want from a Matthew Vaughn spy film. The film is an almost satirical look at the Bond series, and it works so well. Filled with spectacular action, a great cast led by Firth and Egerton, this is one of the best surprises in some time. Vaughn has continually proved what a spectacular filmmaker he is, and this may be his strongest offering yet. This movie deserves a lot of love, and it’s great to see a hard R rated action film in theaters again.