Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

(Video on Demand, June 2015)  Kingsman was billed as “Kick-Ass for the spy movie” and that did nothing to put me in a good mood given how I disliked Kick-Ass’ mixture of cheap cynicism, crudeness and hypocrisy.  It felt aimed at a far younger audience, and I feared that Kingsman would more or less go that same way.  But while Kingsman does have its own crude excesses in presenting its chav-becomes-suave plotline (oy, that final joke), it’s also gleefully fun and honestly enamoured with the material it emulates: It’s instructive to compare the film with 2002’s “hipper Bond” xXx and how eloquent Kingsman can be in promoting the classical gentlemen-spy archetype.  (Try not to quote “Manners maketh man” the next time you proudly pick up a good umbrella.)  Director Matthew Vaughn knows what kind of film he’s building, and the result is far more satisfying than his own previous Kick-Ass. It certainly helps that the film can rely on Colin Firth as the ultimate gentleman spy.  Firth, not previously known for anything resembling an action role, here gets two splendid action sequences –they may be heavily enhanced by blurry special effects, but he looks and acts the part well enough to convince.  The simulated-single-shot church scene is regrettably ultra-violent, but it’s also an anthology piece for a very specific kind of action mayhem.  Taron Egerton is remarkable as the lead protagonist, but the film is also filled with interesting supporting performances by Samuel L. Jackson (having fun at the expense of the usual villainous clichés), Sofia Boutella as an enabled enforcer and Mark Strong in a welcome non-antagonist role.  The editing and direction flows quickly and wittily, with a great soundtrack support and enough winks and nods to other movies to make it even more interesting.  A self-assured comedy with just enough action beats to make it a respectable spy thriller, Kingsman feels fresh and fun.

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