Written by Lucy Reynolds

Arts

Film review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Suave, action packed and featuring some wonderful performances, Lucy Reynolds has (mostly) excellent things to say about British blockbuster Kingsman: The Secret Service.

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Imagine the love child of James Bond and Ali G and you’re part way to understanding the wonderful mish-mash that is Kingsman: The Secret Service. The latest offering from director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) and Mark Millar is just about everything that a cinema-goer could want, effortlessly blending British humour with stylish action scenes and gadgets so inventive they make Bond’s Q look like he’s faffing about with sticky-back plastic and toilet rolls.

Emerging from the wonderfully inventive brains of Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman started out as a graphic novel series, akin to other successful adaptations, such as Kick-Ass and Watchmen. The story follows Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a senior gentlemen spy who is charged by his boss, Arthur (Michael Caine), to bring new blood into the Kingsman service by finding a new protege. Remembering his promise to help the family of a colleague who perished in the line of duty, Harry comes face to face with Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton), a London wide boy on a fast track to jail. Helping him to get through the gruelling ordeal of the selection process by Kingsman gadget guru Merlin (Mark Strong), Harry teaches Eggsy how to be a proper gent – and a ruthless and efficient killer. With maniacal millionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) bidding to take over the technological world with his stunning but deadly bodyguard Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), Hart and Eggsy have to work quickly to save the world from almost apocalyptic chaos.

There is so much to recommend about this film, it’s hard to know where to start. It has the same quintessential British humour and wit as Hot Fuzz or Attack the Block but all the slinky CGI of a Hollywood blockbuster. Some of the action scenes are breathtaking and ultra-violent (if you’ve seen Kick-Ass, you know what to expect).

A niggle: I left feeling mixed about the character of Gazelle, sidekick of arch-villain Valentine. Skilfully played by Sofia Boutella, Gazelle is the most striking character in the film: a beautiful woman who is a double amputee with razors for legs. For a baddie, she kicks major league ass and does it in the most wincingly efficient ways, often making her boss Valentine feel rather queasy due to his inability to deal with blood (what she does at the beginning to an unlucky Kingsman agent is not for the squeamish). Now I love a strong female character, and this movie has a few of them, but it seems that whenever a disabled character is depicted in a film, more often than not they’re a villain; in fact, it’s become a bit cliche. It would be great to see a character like Gazelle as hero instead of antagonist.

The only other element I found a little hard to believe were some of Colin Firth’s fight scenes, as the CGI was too obvious. I know he’s in 50s but they could have made it slightly more realistic. That said, neither of these points detract from what is, overall, a fantastically entertaining film.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the lisping villain with aplomb (Jackson had a lisp as a child and lost it when he started acting, fact fans) and Colin Firth is, as always, charming and engaging as the elegant, eloquent Harry Hart. Stand-out performances come from Mark Strong and Taron Egerton. Truly one of Britain’s best character actors – you’ll recognise him even if you don’t know the name – Strong plays a very convincing Scot as technological wizard, Merlin. Egerton is incredibly charismatic as the streetwise Eggsy, and pulls off the London street kid accent perfectly (not bad for a boy from Aberystwyth). Over the course of the film, he transforms from scruffy troubled teen to suited-and-booted secret agent, with the audience rooting for him all the way.

The soundtrack is as eclectic as the film, with Take That, Dizzee Rascal, Dire Straits and Rudimental in the mix. Sartorial style, scorching action and brilliant performances make this wholly British film well worth a view.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is on general release today.

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Written by Lucy Reynolds

Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive.