Director Matthew Vaughn loves James Bond. The clothes, the gadgets, the villains, the henchmen, the absurd world imperiling plots, he loves it all. Kingsman: The Secret Service takes the heightened spy genre to new, more laughably insane heights with this violent action comedy romp. With a silly Bondish end of days macguffin that involves the World’s cellphone SIM cards, the plot seems to have been pulled from a fever dream R-rated sequel to 2001’s ridiculous children’s pop music adventure Josie and the Pussycats. Kingsman is Vaughn’s follow up to X-Men: First Class. Some things definitely have an X-Man vibe, a jet that comes out from underground, there’s an estate where attractive young people learn to ply their new, incredible trade, beautiful clothes etc. What ultimately sells the silly is Vaughn’s fantastic cast. Samuel L. Jackson kills it as Valentine, an evil software billionaire with a comedic lisp. No evil mastermind is without a trusty hench person. Sofia Boutella plays Gazelle, the double amputee gymnastic killer whose legs are literally graceful blades. She’s not the only one slicing and dicing. In everything, Vaughn really brings is a sense of style. The buildings, bunkers, people and things all feel effortless, simply right for the movie. Nothing is more right about this movie than newcomer Taron Egerton as Eggsy, the son of a long dead secret agent. His journey from streetwise youth to hot shit dandy badass provides a framework for all the espionage to hang on to.
Egerton brings a tough yet clever energy to the would-be spy. As Eggsy sees all the cool gizmos and gadgets he gets to say out loud what we say in our heads; this is super cool. The awareness and reference to the Bond films gets a little overt and might cross over into being a little too self aware at points. It’s all in good fun, though, and much of the visual comedy lands on its feet. In particular one huge operatic joke spanning the whole globe is the greatest sequence of comedic death that I’ve ever seen. The film does a good job of balancing out the more uproarious moments with real stakes that matter to Eggsy and the audience. There is no greater embodiment of this duality than Colin Firth. When he needs to be, his warmth and commitment ground the movie in something outside of camp. While it might seem a bit implausible to consider Colin Firth as the ultimate English gentleman/badass, this movie makes that dream a reality. Firth plays the charmingly code named Galahad, whose specialty is pretty much everything that makes people dead. This movie contains a fight scene that will certainly be referred to as an “all timer” and my suggestion is to go into the movie as cold as possible. Shamelessly and confidently mixing practical and CGI in a time ramped tempest of blood, Vaughn constructs the most insane church massacre late in movie. For this fight alone I cannot wait to go back and see this film again. It’s worth noting that the unfortunate sexism in the James Bond movies is, like everything else, only heightened here. A movie ending joke involves a woman whose entire role in the film is to serve as a sexual reward for saving the world. This joke does kind of leave a bad taste lingering as the credits roll. Otherwise this incredible action movie is the one to beat for 2015. Kingsman: The Secret Service is in theaters everywhere February 13th, 2015.