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Josh Reviews Kingsman: The Secret Service

I was thrilled when I head that Matthew Vaughn would be directing an adaptation of Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons’ wonderful comic book series, The Secret Service.  I adored the original comic, and I had loved Matthew Vaughn’s previous adaptation of a Mark Millar-written comic-book: Kick-Ass.  (Click here for my original review.)  That Matthew Vaughan would be adapting another Mark Millar comic book was very exciting to me.  As the release of the film adaptation grew closer, my excitement only grew.  I felt that I was privy to a secret that few knew.  I couldn’t wait to see movie-goers, who were unaware of the comic, have their heads spun by this deliriously profane, violent twist on the James Bond mythos.

But while I have read a lot of glowing reviews of Kingsman: The Secret Service, I found myself disappointed.  It felt like all the elements of a great film were there.  I love the central hook of the story.  (Both the idea of playing with the cliches of the James Bond films as well as the notion of a guy-centric, violent take on My Fair Lady.)  The casting of the film was spectacular, most notably the genius idea of casting Colin Firth in the role of the fearsome British super-spy.  The film looks great, and there are some terrific moments in the movie.

But I never felt the film quite lived up to the potential of its premise.  It didn’t capture the fun of the jaw-dropping twists and turns of the original comic, nor did it live up to it’s central idea as a spin on the concept of the James Bond-like super-spy.

I think my biggest over-all complaint is that the film is overly convoluted.  It felt like the filmmakers took the fairly simple, straightforward premise of the original comic and complicated-it-up with a lot of unnecessary meandering.  Here are two examples.  First, it’s a predictable idea that, in this sort of film, the mentor is eventually going to get pushed aside by the story so that the young protege can save the day.  In the film, that happens TWICE.  Colin Firth is introduced as the super-spy agent Galahad, mentor to the young Eggsy (Taron Egerton).  But then he falls into a coma, and Eggsy is left on his own in a dangerous world.  But then Galahad gets better, and so he and Eggsy can partner up again.  But then Galahad is again knocked out of play so that Eggsy can be the lone hero for the climax.  Why give us this same plot twist twice?? Consider also the film’s introduction.  In the comic book, the series opens with a James Bond-type agent attempting to rescue celebrity Mark Hamill, who has been kidnapped by terrorists.  It at first seems like a fun, tongue-in-cheek play on super-spy Bond, as this super-agent uses all sorts of tricks and gadgets to outwit the bad guys, all while cracking quips and not breaking a sweat.  But then he is suddenly killed, and his mission fails.  That surprising jolt was an awesome opening to the story, presenting us with this play on the world of Bond, where there are Bond-like super-spies, but where there is also the real threat of danger and death.  It’s a great opening.  In this film, we get that scene, but it’s a little ways into the film.  The film opens with a different prologue, in which we see Galahad leading a team of Kingsman agents, only for the mission to go wrong and Galahad to allow one of his fellow agents to be killed.  The scene serves the same purpose as the opening of the comic (even if it’s not nearly as good).  But why the movie gives us that scene and THEN, a little bit later, also gives us a version of the comic book’s opening, boggles my mind.  Showing us TWO instances of the Kingsman agents failing is needlessly repetitive, and it hurts the central idea that when Galahad is introduced into the story, we’re still supposed to think that he is Bond-like unbeatable.  But since we see both Galahad and another agent fail so early in the story, it weakens that idea.  And, again, showing us basically the same scene twice feels redundant.  Heck, even the film’s TITLE is repetitive!  The comic book was called The Secret Service.  For whatever reason they decided to call the movie Kingsman.  But instead of just going with that, they use BOTH titles by calling the film Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Are you starting to get the idea?  That wordy title is emblematic of the film’s flaws.

Maybe I am being overly harsh because my hopes were so high.  Friends of mine who went into the movie cold, without having read the comic, seem to view the film much more favorably.  (They weren’t constantly comparing the movie to the source material the way I was.)

The best part of the film is, as I alluded to before, the cast.  Colin Firth is magnificent in the lead role as Agent Galahad.  He’s the picture of dapper British sophistication and charm, and so when we get to see him kick serious ass all over the place, it is a thrill.  He brings the film to life whenever he is on screen.  (By contrast, the film suffers, in my opinion, whenever the story veers away from Mr. Firth’s Galahad.)  Samuel L. Jackson is a lot of fun as the lisping, afraid-of-blood super-villain Valentine, and Sofia Boutella strikes an imposing on-screen presence as Valentine’s knife-legged hench-woman.  I love seeing the great Mark Strong get to play a good guy for once, and Michael Caine is also perfectly-cast as the M-like head of the Kingsman secret agents.

Mr. Vaughn is a to-notch director, and there are some wonderfully-constructed set-pieces.  The hugely violent Church battle is a sequence for the ages.

I just wish I liked the over-all package more.  Come on, that anal-sex joke at the end is totally out of place.  Am I wrong??

I am bummed; I really was excited for this film and I really wanted to like it.  In the end, it’s a perfectly entertaining time in a movie-theatre, but it falls far short of greatness in my opinion.  Oh well.

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