It seems presumptuous in mid-February to declare a movie one of the best of 2015, but “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is so entertaining, so fresh, and so fearless that it seems destined to outshine the bulk of the unimaginative and timid films coming down the pike. A whip-smart script and great concept make it a riot to watch. Its insistence on skewering sacred cows of all stripes makes it one of the most provocative movies in years.
Director Matthew Vaughn mixes a wallop of James Bond with a bit of Austin Powers, stirs in a little “Hunger Games,” adds a flavor of “My Fair Lady,” and finishes it off with a dash of “28 Days Later.” The result may sound odd, but in the hands of the right cook, the flavors blend just right.
– Rebecca Cusey in The Federalist
Dear Ms. Cusey,
I do hate to have to disagree with you so vehemently — you seem like a delightful person and an excellent writer (does Ben hire any other kind?) But I think you miss the mark with this review.
First, let me say that you are quite right to praise director Vaughn and his screen-writers for many of the decisions/risks they took. The villain played by Samuel Jackson is fantastic (how many megalomaniacs want to destroy civilization just to save it from global warming!) and the fact that he would show President Obama going for this scheme is delightful to this conservative.
There are other elements to like including the performances of Colin Firth and the young newcomer Taron Egerton and the always reliable Michael Caine. I also liked the dancer who played the deadly female assassin with CGI blades for her feet.
That said, I thought the tone shifts in the film were very problematic. Specifically, about half-way through the movie the tone changes – at that point it was a PG-13 film and suddenly it turns into a crazed R-rated Tarantino-esque orgy of violence (obviously at the scene in the church). I thought the new tone might have worked, but Vaughn kept shifting back and forth between the two styles and that didn’t work for me — for example, the exploding heads were just silly and might have worked in a different film, but I Kept saying to myself ‘I thought we were now watching a serious and violent film that had upped the stakes for the characters — suddenly we get fireworks heads?’ And then while the world goes mad and thousands of people are killing each other, we cut to the one person who matters for “Eggsy”, his mother and half-sister which seems like a serious scene that belongs in a different film. And how did the world recover so easily from all that mayhem and destruction? The tone shifting was bad and kept me from easing into the film in the second half.
The second key problem is the scene in a “hate church” obviously modeled after Westboro. During the beginning of that scene the church is full and the preacher’s sermon starts out just like any normal, conservative orthodox Christian preacher might preach (with a bit of apocalyptic rhetoric thrown in). We hear about the evils of abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc. Then the preacher kicks it into full-on hate mode – the message to the viewer? It’s all of a piece – opposition to sodomy and abortion and divorce is just like hate for other races! Was that the screen-writer(s) or Vaughn’s intent? Who knows, but as someone with orthodox Christian views, I didn’t like it.
Finally, what you call “one particularly dirty joke and a very sexy nude hindside in extreme close-up” at the end of the film I call nasty gratuitous sexual material added that was totally unnecessary to the plot. Think about it, especially in contrast to a James Bond film — our hero could have still had a “sexy” scene with the young lady at the end without making it vulgar. Again, it was off-key and created a shift in tone that made the whole second-half of the movie a fail for me. Perhaps a clever and daring failure, but a failure none-the-less. Bring on Avengers: Age of Ultron — I need some traditional superheroes after this mess.