If points for Most Ludicrous Ending Involving Sex were up for grabs, Kingsman: The Secret Service would snag all of them. Here is a movie that is loud, ugly, full of death and exploding heads, hinges on a plot so thin movie dieticians should be prescribing protein-only rewrites, and ends with an 18-year old James Bond protege about to engage the princess of Sweden in anal sex. If Bond was looking on instead of Mark Strong, it’d be an educational experience, and Sweden would be getting a live feed of local royal sodomy. I sure hope them Swedes have a sense of humour.
But that’s Kingsman’s approach. It is a sexual beast hidden under layers of faux elegance and chivalry. Consider the lithesome henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who has those springy pogo-like prosthetic legs and deadly spokes that extend through them. She spins and breakdances and lunges and twirls and somersaults and slices off a hand here, a foot there.
Her boss is Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp. One can only imagine the kind of nocturnal aerobics they get up to when no one’s looking. Maybe Valentine speaks with a lisp because he made a pun of her name one night and she wasn’t too impressed.
Kingsman is a secret organisation, formed, we learn, in the late 1800s by rich clients of an old tailor. Why exactly these wealthy fellows wanted to save the world I can’t remember, but their political and diplomatic clout must have been thoroughly impressive if they managed to convert a nondescript store into a vast underground headquarters without much government, or natural, interference.
Somewhere between then and now improbable technology and gadgets (bulletproof umbrellas, exploding lighters, lethal pens, and so on) were invented, presumably by Kingsman, since their identity was so secret no scientist in the world would have known of their existence. Or maybe they smuggled them in from China; not once do we see an R&D lab or a guy in a white coat. Or maybe their weapons and gadgets just made themselves.
They recruit their own members, hold their own conferences, and set their own training regimes, which, if you’ve seen a movie like Ender’s Game (2013), consist primarily of inconceivable and often very colourful stunts designed to nudge our would-be hero from the slums of obscurity to the foregrounds of stardom, so that we can see what a genius he really is. In Ender’s Game the cadets of the space academy were each given an iPad with an un-winnable game. Naturally, Ender was the only one who won. Similarly in Kingsman, our young hero, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), is the only one who breaks the two-way mirror in his bunk to save his fellow cadets from the flooding room. He’s also the only one who shows bravery when faced with a parachute-less free fall, is willing to die under a train, and displays incredible compassion when ordered to kill his pet dog. Being a secret service that operates in hostile parts of the world, I’d imagine combat training, weapons practice, the art of camouflage, or even lessons in proper espionage decorum to be on the agenda. But not in a movie like this. Here, the characters teach themselves. In two hours Eggsy shifts from street bum to martial arts expert without spending a second in a dojo. Forget Bruce Lee. Eggsy Unwin is the new kid in town.
The plot: The world is overcrowded. Human beings must be culled in order for them to survive as a species. Billionaire Richmond Valentine has devised a way to do this, though how he does it should be discovered manually, because his grand scheme is a real doozy. Assigned to stop him is Kingsman, led by Galahad (Colin Firth), Merlin (Strong), and of course Arthur (Michael Caine). There used to be a Lancelot; now youngsters have been brought in to replace him (this is where Eggsy ha-ya! Unwin comes in). Where Guinevere is is anybody’s guess.
A lot of people will enjoy Kingsman. It’s kind of crass, in a crowd-pleasing way, full of energy and action. Some will argue that it’s better than Kick-Ass (2010) because all its ass-kickers are old enough to drink. For me, it’s got nothing to do with the ass-kickers but what and how they’re kicking. There are grand ideas in here. I can feel the makings of a great Bond picture for scruffy teenagers. But everything is half-baked, left out in the sun to dry. The great Bond pictures paid close attention to character, progression, and detail. Next to them Kingsman resembles Quantum Of Solace (2008), but with a much better title.
Best Moment | Any scene with Colin Firth or Mark Strong. Taron Egerton makes a formidable presence as well, and I enjoyed his cheeky exuberance.
Worst Moment | Let’s just say Jackson hardly makes a convincing villain, which is strange considering his fabulous turn in Django Unchained (2012).