The weekend of February 13th promised a movie that was sworn to be a transgressive and provocative film. Word of mouth revealed it’s not the one audiences were expecting. Of course I’m talking about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which recent gossip suggests was shockingly tame. The other film, which earns its hard-R rating, and will sadly go overlooked by many, is director Matthew Vaughn’s (“Kick-Ass”,” X-Men: First Class”) adaptation of comic book writer Mark Millar’s subversive, boisterous spy-caper, “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” “Kingsman” is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, going to be one of 2015’s finest films to go unnoticed. Personally, I almost skipped-out on seeing it in the theater due to its lackluster trailer, which really does a poor job of selling it. Last year’s sleeper hit was “Edge of Tomorrow,” a film I eventually got around to seeing only to end up disappointed with overly-plotted, faux-cool nonsense. I approached “Kingsman” worried I might be let down by the same unjustified hype, but the duo of Millar and Vaughn had me pretty enthusiastic that it would be a gem. And it is. [pullquote align=”center”]Kingsman’ is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, going to be one of 2015’s finest films to go unnoticed.[/pullquote]
In 1997, undergoing a covert operation in the Middle East, British secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), also known as Galahad, fails to prevent the death of a fellow agent. All the while, lyrics kick in reciting “Money for nothing, chicks for free…” We’re already off to a good start. Seventeen years later, we’re acquainted with kidnapped climate scientist James Arnold (Mark Hamill), who’s now being held hostage in a remote cabin/villain den guided by Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) on the peak of a mountain top. We’re also introduced to Valentine’s death-dealing female henchman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who sports knife-like prosthetic feet. When Valentine attempts to use implanted computer chips as mind control, an environmentalist solution to global warming that poses a threat to a large sum of humanity in the process, Harry Heart and his roundtable of Kingsman agents recruit a promising street delinquent, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), to their super-competitive training program in order to stop a troubling new world order.
By combining the wry wit of Edgar Wright’s London pub “Cornetto trilogy” (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The Worlds End”) with the hyper-stylized, fun comic-book violence of films like Timur Bekmambetov’s 2008 slam-bang action thriller “Wanted,” viewers can expect “Kingsman” to be a send up of classic 007 spy flicks. Imagine the Roger Moore Bond-era with an anarchist-punk sensibility, intertwined with gentlemanly-tailored cynicism, topped off with Vaughn’s trademark gleefully campy ultra-violence. It plays to a certain inner-15 year old mentality, that is undeniably amusing. While the realistic, gritty seriousness of the recent Daniel Craig 007 films are equally as awesome in their own right (Who’s not looking forward to this year’s “Spectre?”), Vaughn’s deconstructionist throwback to the girls, gadgetry, and double-agents of the 80s is the film he’s intending to pay homage to. But even as a tribute, “Kingsman,” remains its own film that’s more than just a love-letter to the spy capers Vaughn grew up on.
It’s also bound to offend, given it has no intentions of being politically correct. A five minute action sequence played to Skynyrd’s “Freebird” where Firth goes on a killing spree massacre in a radical southern baptist church of Christians (definitely made to mirror Westboro) is destined to make jaws drop. As someone who comes from a Christian background, I wasn’t offended by it in the slightest. The film obviously doesn’t condone real violence against others, and is clearly just having a fun time knocking down hate-mongering, racist, “praise the lords and pass the ammunition,” extremist “Christians.” For a film that quotes Hemingway saying, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self,” I’m certain the film isn’t speaking down towards Christianity, only those who twist its meaning and revel in contradictory, paradoxical concepts that have been misinterpreted.
Another scene involves Eggsy being forced shoot his watery eyed pug, JB (Jack Bauer). *Small Spoiler* Eggsy doesn’t go through with it, but had he done so, the film would have lost me for being too mean-spirited. The moment of waiting in-between filled me with uncomfortable laughter and dread. How they ever got such a cute dog to make such a comically terrified face was a hilarious mystery to me, but had the movie been cruel enough to go through with the killing, it would have been a downer. Thankfully it didn’t go down that route, despite writer Millar being a tad too crass in his books with tasteless shock-value.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a wonderfully self-aware, daring piece of cinema that pushes the envelope and has potential to become iconic, even if it takes a good twenty minutes to get rolling. With a body count that likely stacks up higher then the heights of its thrilling sky-diving sequence, the film is straight committed to fun at all times. Once KC & The Sunshine Band kicked in during the Eggsy vs. Gazelle showdown, it won my heart over completely. It does end on a provocative, cheeky note of boyish humor that might upset more sensitive viewers, but really it’s just Vaughn satirizing genre tropes. Nearly every American action film somehow implies that after the hero has saved the world, he is entitled to a sexual reward by the female damsel in distress. Vaughn’s film simply shows this flimsy, chauvinistic cliche more explicitly. If we can accept such a sexist norm in every other movie, why can’t we accept it here, where the film is clearly poking fun and bringing attention to a long running anti-feminist standard in Hollywood films? All in all, it’s edgy, offensive, eloquent and packed to the brim with the kind of adventure that leaves a smile on one’s face while exiting the theater. In short, go see it immediately.
Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.