Special Effects: B
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a movie about British super spies. Sound familiar? The script, co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), takes care to name-check all the spy franchises to which this movie owes its existence: James Bond, of course; Jason Bourne; even a dog gets named after Jack Bouer. Like Kick-Ass, though, this move is rated R, so it can distinguish itself not only with creative violence but also lots of use of the word "fuck" and tasteless sex jokes.
In the midst of these shenanigans ultimately just like so many spy movies before it, lines are uttered that literally tell us this is "not that kind of movie" -- but really, it is. Vaughn may be "treating" us with unsettling violence (as in the scene where our hero slaughters a bunch of hateful people in a Kentucky church -- against his will, whatever) and killing characters that would never die in movies like this in the past, but the basic formula remains intact. A megalomaniacal villain (Samuel L. Jacksom with an annoying lisp) is intent on destroying the world, and our hero spies step in to save it.
This is another movie based on a comic book series, apparently with no truly original ideas. Whatever gets added here to make it seem like a more "edgy" bun fun spy movie is just thrown in from other genres. Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), the megavillain's henchwoman with artificial legs used as lethal weapons, is very much reminiscent of the catholic schoolgirl with the ball and chain in Kill Bill -- a movie whose style seems very much at influence here.
A good bit of the movie really is fun, though, and how can anyone not love Colin Firth? It's a kick to see him, everyone's favorite Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, kicking ass as Harry Hart, the Kingsman agent who hand picks the young candidate to replace a recently killed agent. Said candidate is Gary (Taron Egerton, who casts a striking young figure), the now-grown son of an agent who gave his life to save Harry's. Gary now lives in a lower class home with a baby brother and his mother and her abusive boyfriend. He's highly intelligent and wasting his potential on petty thievery.
We get introduced to Harry's physical capabilities through Gary's eyes, as, already seen in the film's trailer, Harry kicks the shit out of local thugs intent on revenge against Gary. The staging and particularly the editing of these fight scenes are stylized in a way that seems to deliberately distract from us noticing how staged it really is.
And then Gary goes in for training, the world is threatened, you kind of know the rest. Our villain this time has created an implant that forces people to kill each other against their will -- it's his "noble" solution to overpopulation. This makes for a few ultra-violent scenes that are clearly meant to be entertaining and fun, which honestly just makes them sort of unintentionally creepy. I'd still be more apt to be forgiving if not for the barely obscured mysogyny, as in the Scandinavian princess who is reduced to a punchline about women doing anal.
Which is all to say, well, I have mixed feelings about Kingsmen. It may not be anywhere near as original as it clearly thinks it's being by way of cheeky meta-references to its own influences, but most of it is still undeniably entertaining, in only the hokey-action-movie way that it promises. It's still more fun than you might expect. Just don't catch yourself thinking too much while you watch, or you might feel the fun you're having start to deflate.