From the moment a man gets sliced into two pieces, we know Kingsman is not your typical action film. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass), Kingsman is one of the most playful, just straight up fun movies I’ve ever seen. With whip smart humor and hilarity at every turn, Kingsman is less focused on telling an intricate story than it is making its audience die of laughter, and for the most part, this pays off.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (kind of a mess of a title) is based on the comic book of the same name, and it definitely shows. The film has such a playful sense of violence, and it knows exactly what it wants to be. While the first 30 minutes are nothing groundbreaking, we get some good exposition as we are introduced to Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a Kingsman agent who is looking to recruit a new agent. He finds this in Eggsy, played by newcomer Taron Egerton, whom he takes under his wing and mentors him through a set of training exercises. Their goal is to stop Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a man hellbent on controlling the population through a violent chip embedded in cell phones. It’s a silly plot, but this is the kind of the film that lends itself well to something like this.
The plot is completely engrossing from start to finish. Despite a few narrative twists that feel a bit strange towards the end of the film, Kingsman is a ride from start to finish. The film never takes itself seriously to warrant important life lessons or social messages, because it’s too focused on being a blast throughout. And it is. With stylistic editing and ridiculous over-the-top violence, Kingsman isn’t your typical James Bond spy movie. Think Tarantino mixed with Kick-Ass and The Hunger Games with a little bit of Jason Bourne thrown in. It’s fun as hell.
With Colin Firth on top of his game, the rest of the cast is kind of overshadowed, but that’s a minor complaint. Firth is always great at playing the smarmy British mentor, with his quick lines (Manners maketh man) and his spry youthfulness. Jackson, too, is great here. For once he isn’t yelling over everyone else, and he’s actually playing a different character. His hilarious lisp will have you laughing hard, and there’s some legitimately good chemistry between Jackson and Firth.
And I haven’t even talked about the church scene yet. There is so much in Kingsman that blows you away, from a great exposition scene in a pub to a beautiful skydiving sequence, but the scene in the church where Harry takes out hundreds of citizens while under the influence of Valentine’s drug is simply astonishing. In what looks like completely one take, Harry flips over pews, fires from his umbrella, and delivers lethal punches right and left. It’s a joy to watch. It’s an action sequence with a great sense of place and an equally great sense of humor, and it’s one of my favorite action scenes in a long time.
Kingsman is a delight. With twists and turns in its engrossing plot and actors on top of their game, Kingsman is the rare film in the genre that doesn’t let the plot overtake its hilarity. There’s no shoehorned romance, and it’s structure is unlike any other. Director Vaughn has made a smart spy thriller, one that turns conventions upside down, and makes you expect the unexpected. Let the inner high schooler in you shine and take in Kingsman, because you won’t regret it.