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Spy fidelity or Bond does dubstep? Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) ~ Review

January 21, 2015

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Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson, Sophia Boutella, Jack Davenport and Mark Hamill
Screenplay by: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman
Country: UK/ US
Running time: 129 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)/ R (USA)
Released: January 29 (UK)/ February 13 (USA)

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More than once in Kingsman: The Secret Service the line ‘This isn’t that sort of spy movie’ is uttered, and it’s true – this isn’t quite like any spy movie you’ll have experienced.

Taking the post-modern smarts and stylish violence that has become helmer Matthew Vaughn’s trademark and blending them like a potent, expensive cocktail with the formula, beats and mores of old fashioned cinematic espionage adventures – you know, the ones that Jason Bourne and co. are supposed to have made redundant – could have gone very wrong, but in the hands of this particular hot Brit director, it all turns out kingly, indeed.

In an adventure that sees Colin Firth’s debonair yet ace man of action attempt to recruit into his independent espionage organisation ‘Eggsy’, a young, failed Marine lifted straight out of crime-addled Sarf Lahndan (impressive newcomer Taron Egerton), the irresistibly old-school cool, English gent hero-type and all his accoutrements (bespoke tailoring, umbrellas, specs, polite clipped tones and dignity at all costs) is wryly, finely allowed to collide with Eggsy’s jobless, joyriding, ne’er-do-well outlook, appearance, accent and cultural tics. Much fun is had as Firth adeptly decks Eggsy’s foes in a Millwall pub and the latter puts toff boys to shame during a brains-and-brawn-testing training regime, while together they forge a thoroughly charismatic master and apprentice act.

With knowing nods to everything from The Avengers to The Ipcress File (surely Michael Caine’s casting as the spy chief is no coincidence), Kingsman has much fun in honouring the (mostly British) spy-fi traditions, while its script – following Kick-Ass (2010), another loose comic book adaptation by Vaughn and regular collaborator Jane Goldman – wilfully sends up all those megalomaniac-themed Bond plots in the shape of lisping villain Samuel L Jackson’s barmy scheme directed from a mountainous HQ. At one point it even references them in the dialogue.

As noted though, those not versed in Bond lore and John Steed, but coming to the party via the likes of Vaughn’s Kick-Ass and Layer Cake (2006), won’t be disappointed either. The comedic violence and gore is all in check, while the tight plotting and eye-popping visuals rarely relent. A word of warning, mind you: the pacing’s properly breathless, so much so your eyes may tire at points from all the flash, crash, bang and wallop.

But, for those feeling a little left out in the cold by Daniel Craig’s somewhat sombre 007 era, Kingsman offers more than an antidote. An urgent, clever, rollicking homage to the over-the-top Bond of old, while also a heady bourbon-like swig of something we’ve never really tasted before. Chin-chin.

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