The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE</i> | The Movie Waffler


A delinquent teen is taken under the wing of a sophisticated secret agent.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Hamill, Mark Strong

Last year was a standout year for British film, with such impressive works as Locke, Under the Skin and Starred Up finding their way onto many critics' end of year polls. The aforementioned are exactly the sort of individualistic gems British Prime Minister David Cameron famously moaned about money being wasted on. Cameron wants a British film industry that churns out soulless Hollywood imitations with mass market appeal. Kingsman: The Secret Service (the colon threatening a franchise) is exactly the sort of movie he was speaking of. If The X-Factor asked its contestants to make a movie rather than cut an album, and their efforts were judged by UKIP councillors, they'd probably come up with something resembling Matthew Vaughn's latest offering. This is British cinema at its worst.
Colin Firth is Harry (aka Galahad), a member of a top secret order of spies known as Kingsmen. On a late '90s assignment in 'The Middle East', a fellow Kingsman throws himself on a grenade to save Harry's life. In a riff on Pulp Fiction's Gold Watch segment, Harry presents the dead man's infant son Eggsy with a pendant, informing his widowed mother that the number engraved on its rear can be called if ever they find themselves in trouble. 17 years later, Eggsy is now a delinquent teen (played by newcomer Taron Egerton) who finds reason to dial the number when he's arrested for stealing a gang member's car. Harry takes the young man under his wing and sets him on the rigorous road to becoming a Kingsman.
Throughout the film, Harry spouts a liberal tract about transcending class, but he seems unaware of the movie he's appearing in, one which couldn't be more right wing if it wore the number two shirt at Lazio. Contrary to Harry's opinion on class, the film divides up its British characters into two camps: working class chavs and upper class toffs. In a shockingly upfront and shameless display of product placement, the walls of Harry's office are lined with front pages from notorious right wing tabloid rag The Sun. Product placement is something we sadly have to live with (McDonald's get a scene to themselves too here), but this example doesn't even make sense. Why would a supposedly sophisticated liberal like Harry read a publication popularly labelled 'The Scum' by those who don't hold political views somewhere to the East of Mussolini?
At one point Harry quotes Hemingway - “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self," - yet the film makes its jokes at the expense of everyone who isn't British. Self-effacement is one of Britain's great strengths, but you wouldn't think it from the cheap borderline bigotry on hand here. A Swedish princess is revealed to be a horny slut who offers Eggsy anal sex as a prize for saving the world. Surely Princess Kate would have been a more obvious target, though of course we can't upset British royalty. But who cares about those funny Scandinavians?
As the movie's villain, Samuel L Jackson portrays a communications mogul who acts like a moron despite the intelligence required to achieve such a status. His part is essentially a retread of his Unbreakable antagonist, with a cheap dig at Jackson's public nemesis Spike Lee, and the performance is unbearably grating. A female Kingsman agent is revealed to be a lesbian purely for the sake of a smutty gag, and ends up needing to be saved by the male hero. Eggsy's mother falls apart and starts dating an abusive thug after the death of her Kingsman husband, because those single mothers just can't look after themselves can they? Most offensive of all is a mass slaughter in a church played for comic relief to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynrd's 'Freebird'. Apart from how distasteful the scenario is (designed to poke fun at bigoted redneck Americans; how ironic), didn't Rob Zombie already do this with The Devil's Rejects?
Kingsman seems designed to appeal to that faction of society that lies a few layers beneath the lowest common denominator. There are no Union Jacks on display, but the metaphorical flag-waving is all too forthright. In aiming to satisfy the growing anti-American populace of Britain it references the recent CIA surveillance scandals, even implicating Obama in its conspiracy (and involving him in a climactic set-piece scored to 'Land of Hope and Glory' that will have Donald Trump pumping his fist), it conveniently ignores that no race of people are subject to more surveillance from their own government than the British. Pot, meet kettle!
We have an early contender for worst movie of 2015. The only thing that could make Kingsman worse is a 'London Calling' montage.