Title: Kingsman:The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Major Players: Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L Jackson
Out Of Five: 3.5
With number four in the latest Bond series on its way, it’s a reasonably safe bet that we’re comfortable with his latest incarnation. In which case, it’s probably about time for a spoof and Kick-Ass director, Matthew Vaughn, is only too happy to oblige. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is Bond for teenagers. Just look at its certificate ……
Streetwise Eggsy (Taron Egerton) comes from a run-down London estate, but is taken on as a potential recruit by super-secret spy organisation, Kingsman. He’s an unlikely candidate: Oxbridge graduates with posh accents are more their style. Senior agent, Harry/Galahad (Colin Firth) takes him under his wing and the lad makes it to the final two. But while all this is happening Harry, his boss Arthur (Michael Caine) and colleague Merlin (Mark Strong) are trying to work out what’s behind multi-millionaire Valentine’s (Samuel L Jackson) latest headline catching grabbing plan – free SIM cards for everybody in the world. They soon find out – and then it’s a case of trying to stop him.
While it probably spends too much time in scene setting, the film eventually warms up into an amusing poke in the eye for the spy genre which doesn’t take itself remotely seriously. Nor should it. It’s packed full of gadgets – a seriously impressive, multi-purpose umbrella and a neat little blade a shoe’s toe cap (Oxfords, not brogues – “words to live by”) are a Kingsman agent’s stock in trade. And Jackson has an assistant who is a living gadget in her own right. The aptly named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) sports a pair of blades of the type usually seen at the Paralympics but with some modifications. They’re razor sharp and have lethal spikes. Coupled with her high-kicking abilities, she makes a formidable, if not deadly, enemy.
For all the violence – and there are a number of prolonged, high-octane fight sequences – the film is surprisingly unbloody, even during the over-the-top climax when Jackson’s plan goes spectacularly wrong. It involves a lot of people’s heads exploding, but it’s more like the New Year fireworks, without a drop of the red stuff to be seen. It’s actually the language that makes the film deemed more suitable for older teenagers and adults and earns its 15 certificate. The F word is scattered around like confetti to the extent that it’s irrelevant and there’s one extremely ripe sexual joke towards the end, which is definitely not for kids! So don’t be fooled into thinking this a Y A movie. It’s nowhere near that pure.
But there’s another aspect of the film that, for me at least, was more eyebrow-raising than the language. And that’s the level of product placement from one solitary company – News International. Any TV news footage is made to look like it comes from Sky News and the newspaper front pages adorning one entire wall in Harry’s office are all from The Sun, showing some of the paper’s most memorable front page headlines – Up Your Delors and the like. This isn’t meant to be a realistic film on any level, yet here we are presented with a jarring reality – one that jars even further with the amount of time given over to that wall. Anybody would think it had been built into the contract. I don’t have a problem with product placement per se, but I do when it’s this clumsy and heavy handed, If there was an award for Worst Supporting Newspaper Front Page, it would win hands down.
Striking a welcome lighter note are the knowing winks in the direction of other movies. The Thunderbirds style runway hidden underneath a swimming pool just adds to the fun, while The Shining is clearly the target when one of the victims of Jackson’s evil plan attempts to batter down a door. But it’s Jackson’s character who provides the most giggles. Like any good Bond – or Bond style – villain, he has to have a physical weakness and, in his case, it’s a speech impediment. Given that his adversary is played by Colin Firth, a stutter would have been just too obvious, now wouldn’t it? So he gets a lisp instead.
The cast all appear to be enjoying themselves while sending up one of our favourite film genres, and doing so with a decidedly in your face swagger. And, while the film is slow to get off the ground and then plods a little between the action sequences, it’s a piece of slick fun with its baseball cap worn very much to one side. Except that it’s not really for teenagers.
Kingsman:The Secret Service is released around the UK on Thursday 29 January.