In this parallel universe to Mr. Bond, there is a British Secret Service called the Kingsman. It is so secret that its headquarters are access via a secret entrance in a men’s tailoring shop in London. Appropriate, because these spies look gooood. Of course you’ve got suave guys like Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Jack Davenport in the ranks, not to mention Firth. These globe-trotting secret agents come across a vicious new foe when they lose one of their own trying to rescue a professor (Mark Hamill!!! Is that you?!?!). The puppet master with the evil schemes is one American techie entrepreneur Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who has tech plans of crazy proportions in order to rule the world in the twisted way that only evil villains can justify.
Meahwhile, the Kingsman are short-staffed, so before they can go after Valentine, it is time to bring in a class of recruits to see who can join the elite. This is where Kingsman is fresh and fun, with a wink and a nod to the fact that the world of suave super-spies doesn’t really exist. Now you have street-smart punks like Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who know how to quickly get themselves in and out of trouble. Eggsy may wear hip-hop clothes and seemingly do not much other than hang out with his mates at the pub, but there is something about his view of honor and his protection of his family that may make him the perfect candidate.
Though the film builds towards fancy gadgets, explosions, exciting action scenes, and a surprising amount of carnage, Kingsman is ultimately an origin story. We of course know that Eggsy will be The One, but it is loads of fun seeing him get there, an ultimately have to prove himself in the field. Firth, cool as usual, gets to literally flex his range a bit with, yes, fight scenes, including one astonishing scene of Firth-carnage that has to be seen to be believed.
When it seems that I only have praise for what I thought was a surprisingly fun action flick, I have to point out my surprise at how the filmmaker almost managed to derail the mood with pretty much the very last scene. Let’s just say that unlike Bond films, there is no sex, or really any mention of sex in Kingsman until the very very end. It is like director Matthew Vaughn slapped his forehead and tacked on a scene that he couldn’t believe he had forgotten. It completely seems out of sorts with the rest of the fun, and leaves much of the audience (for sure the female variety) going, “Uh, what the…???” just as the credits roll.
Among the Blu-ray special features are a series of featuretts called “Kingsman: The Secret Service Revealed”, with cast and crew chatting about the casting (including finding unknown Taron Egerton at the last minute), the gadgets, and the action scenes. One of the more interesting bits explained how brutally difficult it was to film one of the scariest moment of the training session, involving a room filling with water. The movie was based on a graphic novel/comic, so one of the other fun extras was a chat with the writer and artist of the original book. These guys were totally excited to work with each other, and their enthusiasm is infectious.