When you cast Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine all in one film, how can you go wrong? You can’t. Well, not until the very end but I’ll get to that. From the moment Kingsman: The Secret Service starts, you know it is not asking you to suspend your disbelief, it assumes you are already doing that and if you aren’t, well, you probably aren’t going to have as much fun as everyone else.
A spy organization, known as the Kingsman, just lost one of its members (Lancelot) so now it is up to the current members to each select a recruit that they believe is Kingsman material. Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) chooses Gary, or “Eggsy” as he likes to be called, as his potential recruit. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is unrefined and from a “bad part” of London but Harry sees potential in him. However, Harry also sees “potential” in Eggsy because Eggsy’s father, also a Kingsman, died as a result of an error, Harry’s error.
As soon as all the recruits are settled on, they begin an intensive training program that involves jumping from airplanes, awaking in the middle of the night to find themselves being submerged under water with no way out, and a variety of other tactical training measures. The group is filled with posh British schoolboys, who are the embodiment of what you would imagine if someone said “posh British schoolboys,” and two girls who are kind to Eggsy while the others are obviously not. Eggsy is reactionary, which can be good, but he also has a wee bit of a temper, which understandably detracts from his survival and analytical skills.
While Eggsy is being trained for potential “Kingsmanship”, tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is trying to take over the world and the Kingsman are trying to hone in on him as he is the one responsible for the death of their colleague, Lancelot. Valentine has a lisp, wears clothes befitting a teenager (or an immature 20 something) and gets ill at the sight of blood. Hardly the world’s most terrifying villain. However, he has a team of worker-bees, most notably Gazelle, who has artificial legs made of steel blades, who do all the work for him. Typical.
While Kingsman: The Secret Service, fancies itself as a sort of funny James Bond-esque type of film, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. It has a few moments of hilarity (in particular, a fight scene that uses “Give it Up” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band as its background track) but overall, it relies on the charm of its actors to sell the storyline. Colin Firth and my fantasy husband Mark Strong are solid in their performances (obviously) and Samuel L. Jackson is basically a god at this point and the character of Valentine seems like it was created with him in mind. Even Taron Egerton manages to make some of the more cheesy lines/situations funny for the audience. There are also a few moments where less could definitely have been more. Most notably, a “joke” involving the Swedish princess right at the end of the film was unnecessary and kind of tasteless. Sure, the teenagers in the crowd thought it was funny, and I guess they are the target audience, but it actually made my plus one for the screening dislike the character a little bit. Why would you spend time creating a character the audience wanted to root for and then ruin it by going for a cheap laugh?