Under normal circumstances, any movie with Colin Firth has me from the moment he says “Hello.” And “Kingsman: The Secret Service” shows off Firth playing a super-cool gentleman spy in a super-elite British intelligence unit wearing a super-bespoke suit. And he even quotes one of Hemingway’s greatest lines: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
So, obviously, my first instinct was to reach for a very dry martini, in a big toast to Firth. My second instinct was to chuck all work out the window after having written the following review: I love, love this movie to bits and you should too.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||129 mins|
That could have easily been the end of it but, unfortunately, there are many moments of uneasiness experienced during Matthew Vaughn’s U.K. spy extravaganza that prompt one to hold off that martini.
“Kingsman” is highly skilled at spoofing the legacy of the U.K.’s greatest spy legend, James Bond, and having a few chuckles at his (and its own) expense, with the Oxbridge accents sported by the members of the film’s intelligence unit delightfully posh and uppity.
As for the action, Firth reportedly performed 80 percent of his own stunts, and boy, is he impressive. Not a drop of sweat appears on his brow, nor is there a twitch in his classic cheeks as he offs the bad guys in elegant sequence after elegant sequence. It goes without saying that no specks of blood, let alone dust, ever land on his suits.
So all is good, maybe, if you’re into British aristocratic cliches: rolled up black umbrellas with sculpted handles, afternoon tea eaten off Royal Crown Derby sets, and silk ties, Dunhill lighters and so on. About halfway into the film, however, there’s a dawning realization that “Kingsman” is actually kind of bigoted and flaunts upper-class superiority in a way even Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, might find a bit much. This despite the repeated statements coming from our suave agent Harry (Firth) about how “manners maketh the man” and how a person’s potential has little to do with his birth and background.
In fact, that whole Hemingway quote flies in the face of both Harry’s actions and the film’s rabid, classist sentiments, which run like a turgid river beneath a Victorian graveyard.
Consider the story: Gentleman spy Harry decides to groom Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young Londoner from the wrong side of the tracks, to be a spy. This amounts to Eggsy joining a recruitment boot camp from hell, involving sky diving without a parachute, being underwater without oxygen and other feats designed to figure out who can join the “Knights” (the spies all have code names like “Lancelot” and “Arthur”). Once Eggsy shows that he has the makings of a true gentleman spy, Harry wastes no time in putting him on the front lines to battle evil American tech lord Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who claims to abhor violence but has no qualms about destroying most of mankind.
Harry is disdainful of Valentine, vaguely insinuating that as a British upper-crust gentleman he would not normally consent to be in the same room as an American upstart with a lisp, but these are regretful times, etc. Would he have been more forgiving if Valentine had dressed less like a West Coast rapper and more like a Bond Street auctioneer?
Eggsy, being much younger, is more liberal in his views but he makes up for that with a hefty dose of male chauvinist sexism. At one point, he’s even offered anal sex from a Swedish princess as a reward for his heroics. Jolly sporting of her, eh what?
“Kingsman” is definitely not for faint of heart — its rewards can only be reaped with a wide-open mind and an iron will.
Repeat after me: I will not be offended, I will not be offended, I will not be offended.