Kingsman: The Secret Service
Since the internet is hotting up about Kingsman and I never did put my view out there, it’s high time I cast my mind back several weeks to the evening I came out of the cinema feeling sullied and woefully disappointed.
It’s a great, if not novel, conceit. Eggsy is an unlikely lad (newishcomer Taron Egerton) who loses his dad in mysterious circumstances when he is small, and grows up on a London council estate with his long-suffering mum. Living in a bad scene (the mum takes on an abusive gangster boyfriend) but not hopeful about being able to change his lot, Eggsy’s evident streetsmarts and a longtime promise see him recruited to a shady, super-secret spy organisation by the impressive Harry Hart (Colin Firth, relishing the opportunity to play against type while retaining his cut-glass accent and sartorial prowess).
What follows is just as you’d hope and expect from the writer of Kick-Ass and the director of Layer Cake: an ordinary guy plays out our superhero fantasies as he avenges his father’s death and attempts to save the world from the despicable vagaries of an over-the-top Samuel L. Jackson. While Firth and his band of Arthurian goodies are Moore-era James Bond, the baddies are Tarantino circa Kill Bill in their flamboyance. It’s a perfectly enjoyable mash-up, with even Jackson bearable thanks mainly to an endearing speech impediment and a fantastic wardrobe of sneakers. Egerton acquits himself superbly against a cast that includes Michael Caine and Mark Strong, imbuing Eggsy with the right amount of cocky-geezer arrogance and something bordering on sympathy as he holds his own amongst a bunch of young toffs.
So far, so fun.
But just past the halfway mark, as I find myself contemplating a possible four stars and praise for screenwriter Goodman’s smart update on the well-trodden genre, Jackson’s evil machinations take over the plot and Vaughn’s movie loses it. A bloodbath in a church is foreshadowed uneasily as a grotesquerie of bigoted characters make us shift in our seats, but even the most objectionable factions of humanity don’t deserve the comeuppance that follows. There is something distinctly distasteful about watching Firth dispensing death in a scene which is over-shot, over-scored and over-hyped – intentionally hyperbolic perhaps, but such a misstep (the film plummeting to a conflicted two and a half stars) and so out of step with the film’s tone thus far, that it shifts the story into a whole other register.
From then on, Eggsy’s story is overpowered by super-villain nonsense of the Austin Powers kind, with an inevitably bombastic finale which will evoke either hysterical delight or grim-faced silence from viewers. And then – to top off the indignity – an appalling moment of misogyny which is no doubt designed to leave the principally young-male audience titillated and sated at the end of what is bound to have been a widely-considered “classic”.
So much potential. So much disappointment. So much box office.