Every now and again you find a movie that surprises you. One where the trailers failed to grab you, but some early word of mouth got your attention. You weren’t expecting much of it and still were not quite sure of the tone as the film house lights came down and the movie logos began to roll. Suffice to say this year has been a weak year for film thus far, which isn’t terribly surprising when you look at releases through March with the stock of films that are shelved for long periods or the studios have no real faith in. If a Cloverfield comes along and destroys the box office so be it, but more often than not you get an Avatar or Frozen running until something new edges them out like a Lego Movie or Alice in Wonderland. Kingsman is in the litany of the delayed having originally been scheduled for an October 2014 release. Though the not yet reviewed Seventh Son has it beaten for shelf time by a full year.
Was the movie delayed for a good reason or did the studio make a mistake?
I can’t help but be reminded of another film of Samuel L Jackson’s from 2001 called Formula 51. It was not good, but I had the feeling this movie would remain the same in tone as Jackson was affecting an unusual lisp for…well reasons. It’s odd for me to start with the actors on a review, but Jackson is just so bloody odd in this and honestly a bit distracting from the rest of the film. There were times I wished to yell that he was the weakest link. I’d try to blame the director or the script, but nearly everyone else was spot on. Colin Firth as the elder tailor and mentor was rather engaging; which leaves me finding it funny he was in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. While I am not familiar with his body of work, having seeing only one of his 75 credits (Shakespeare in Love if you must know), I can see why people gave him accolades for The Kings Speech. The man has a natural subdued charisma that he makes look effortless. Through the film his character talks about being a gentleman and he truly seems to embody that. Michael Caine is serviceable in his role, and Mark Strong (also in T,T,S,S) is magnetic as usual happily taking a back seat to others in the film and letting his natural screen presence be overshadowed when appropriate. The only oddity with him is what sounds to me like a touch of a Scottish accent that isn’t quite natural for him.
The two worth mentioning as standouts are Taron Egerton, our protagonist. For a new comer he shows a certain consistency that many other first time actors lack as he makes his way through the film. Dashing Rogue or Charming Gentleman he is successful in both. For a first time actor to have as much attention on him as he does, he doesn’t break and makes almost every line work and every bit of appropriate emotion. Sofia Boutella also stands out as Samuel L Jackson’s characters partner. There’s an eager gleefulness to her as she works her way through people and the movie, that makes her engaging to watch through and through.
From a story perspective, it is straight from a comic book – literally. The comic written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons is familiar territory when you put names to works; such as Kick Ass and Wanted. The movie absolutely resonates with the irreverence of both the previous works. It functions both as an homage to the genre of the spy thriller and a near parody at the same time; just as Kick Ass does for the Superhero story. That is to say the movie is as witty as it is ridiculous, but too entertaining at the same time. The movie doesn’t try to be more than what it is and it actually knows it. Where some works try to be self referential and ironic in that they are doing that – they fail. This one does not as it keeps the tongue firmly planted in the cheek the entire time. I think the source material was good, but this tone I’ve been talking about comes from frequent writing partners Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. The pair previously gave us Stardust, Kick Ass, and X-men First Class which all are very well done films that succeed on a lot of levels as does this one continuing a good trend.
This isn’t to say they are flawless, with Vaughn at the helm again. There’s just something he misses but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The pacing is off just enough and I can’t be certain but I think he uses a 4 act structure rather than 3 which sets the story and style off from the norm. There are some pacing issues that could have been avoided if there had been a touch more deftness at the helm. Some of the fights are a confused mess through sharp cuts and unusual camera positions. When you can tell what the fight is, you move from first person shooter to near comic book level action sequences to moderate success in the overall film. What does work with the technicals though is that the movie knows it is ridiculous and gives the audience something special for it.
Kingsman is a good movie. It is an acerbic tongue in cheek take on the spy movies without being an outright parody. It is a fun little actioner that has humor and a sense of the absurd that needs to be praised. It goes for over the top without reaching too far, putting it in the just right category. I can honestly say I want to see it again and hope to laugh just as hard. I want to see more films remember how to be fun but still tell a good story. I think we have had enough as a movie going audience of dour, dark, and broody. They have their place, but movies like Kingsman are looking good and leave you feeling good.
The movie is not for everyone as it hits a bit of the ultraviolence at times, so if you want bloodless action give it a pass. It’s not gory, just not bloodless either. Someone remembered what squibs are.
If you were the least bit curious about this movie, go see it. Nom your popcorn and drink your beverage and just enjoy the ride. I know I did.