Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar, is not your typical spy movie. Much like Kick-Ass and its sequel, also directed by Matthew Vaughn, it’s gruesome and comedic at the same time.
The Kingsman organization is independent of government that carries out secret missions, much like the CIA and MI6, and with its agents named after knights of the Round Table — like Lancelot and Galahad. After a bit of exposition, we follow Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), who makes a series of bad decisions and falls under the tutelage of Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Hart first makes contact with a very young Eggsy after his father, a Kingsman, is killed in action.
The film follows Eggsy and other candidates as they compete to fill an empty slot in the Kingsman organization, While the “training” sequences are well-known to most, they’re countered by the machinations of Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a billionaire philanthropist who wants to solve Earth’s environmental problems in a different way, after realizing that donating money has done little.
The film is very well-paced, with kinetic action sequences aplenty and very few scenes that slow the fast-paced movie. The action scenes themselves are a treat to watch, particularly a scene where Firth’s character dismantles a team of thugs tormenting Eggsy and an extended piece of mayhem in a Kansas church.
Samuel L. Jackson seems like he’s having a ton of fun as the quirky, lisping Valentine, and Firth’s upper-class accent and conduct contrast nicely when he breaks into ass-kicking mode.
The movie is also intensely aware that it’s within a specific genre, complete with outrageously convoluted spy gadgets and secret identities, but is constantly winking at and parodying itself. In particular, a few scenes have a character openly saying what part of the movie this would be, before saying “This isn’t that kind of movie.”
There are a few weak spots — while we’re made to understand that Eggsy is skilled, it doesn’t follow how he gets up to Harry’s skill level in such a short time. And considering her role in the overall plot, Roxy (Sophie Cookson) doesn’t get nearly as much of a spotlight as she should have.
But it’s not difficult to forgive these faults, as the movie never fails to deliver on blood and gore, nods to the spy genre and pure mayhem, not to mention surprisingly poignant commentary on how badly we as humans have wrecked the Earth.