Ever wondered what injecting a Bond film with a bit of comic-book madness would be like? Kick-Ass writer director Matthew Vaughn – who teams up with co-writer Jane Goldman again – has the answer: Kingsman: The Secret Service. It’s part-spy, part comic-book caper that doesn’t take itself seriously.
Testament of Youth star Taron Egerton plays Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin, a lippy kid from a London sink estate who is recruited into a secret spy agency comprised of upper class ‘tailors’ from Savile Row. Little does Eggsy know that his late father was also part of the same elite force, having lost his life to save debonair agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) in a botched Middle East operation.
Hart left little Eggsy a calling card that he now uses when his mum’s violent partner’s thugs come a-knocking, and is surprised by the special killer moves from a nibble Hart in action. This then begins Eggsy’s Kingsman recruitment and training – much to the disapproval of the agency’s leader Arthur (Michael Caine). Meanwhile, scheming phone billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) plans to take over peoples’ handsets and the world and ‘cleanse’ it. Eggsy first mission becomes a vital one to save the planet.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Hart, a part so fitting for Firth, in both temperament and physique that you can tell the actor is having an immense amount of fun portraying him. It’s a close as we get to seeing Firth as Bond too – and Firth the marital arts expert. His immaculate manners and Egerton as Eggsy’s lack of compliment brilliantly and make for great rifts as the youngster learns not just the spy business ropes but etiquette. You do long for even more jokes along the George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion line. It is also a big, sharp poke at the ingrained English class structure, something Vaughn relishes in.
If Testament of Youth wasn’t a great start to a fledging career for recently graduated drama school alumni Egerton, Kingsman propels him into the big time and puts him on pop culture’s radar. The young actor really carries the part well, not only bringing well-timed humour when needed, but also proving he’s a contender for any future action roles. Maybe a young Bond in the making?
Caine gives an intriguing turn as the agency boss – equipped with a great twist towards the end. Mark Strong is the agency’s Q-styled character who unlike the Bond character, actually gets to see some action. Jackson is hilarious as the lisping megalomaniac with an aversion to blood – watch out for the dinner scene with Hart too, and its Bond references. It’s a credit to the writers.
As for the action, it’s back to pre-(awful) Kick-Ass 2 standards. It’s a thrilling ride, from the pub brawl between Hart and thugs, to the evangelical church ding-dong between the British gentleman agent and some super prejudice worshippers that will literally have your jaw hitting the ground at the choreography, blood thirst and speed. For those wanting tropes of Bond action, it pays homage to that too.
Kingsman: The Secret Agent takes the spy genre down a comic-book route (not for those faint of heart though), opening it up to a wider audience but not forgetting to both gently mock and honour British spy pedigree. It’s an espionage blast – simplistic plot aside – that puts characterisation and beautifully choreographed action first to offer cinematic value for money.