Review: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a hilarious, action-packed homage to spy films

Alex Pelham

After years of horrendous spoof films such as “Scary Movie 5” and “A Haunted House,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” serves as an exhilarating, hilarious revitalization for the genre. The film’s stunning action, witty humor and enjoyable performances make it an early candidate for most enjoyable picture of the year.  

After a tough street kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is caught joyriding, he gets bailed out by a mysterious and well-dressed man who claims to have known Eggsy’s deceased father. The mystery man, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), sees potential in Eggsy and reveals he worked with Eggsy’s father as an agent for the Kingsmen — an espionage group dedicated to stopping anyone who threatens the world. Deciding he has nothing to lose, Eggsy begins his training as a Kingsman. Meanwhile, Harry investigates the activities of tech tycoon Richman Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). As Eggsy fits into his role as a Kingsman agent, he and Harry must thwart Richman’s plan to unleash chaos upon the world.

Director Matthew Vaughn, who directed the ultra-violent superhero satire “Kick-Ass,” returns with more grisly mayhem. The violence is indeed bloody, but the humor in Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s script evens out the ridiculous body count. The film’s wit can make the goriest scenes funny, including a sequence where the heads of several dignitaries under Richman’s control explode in synchronized fashion. Though he includes several graphic scenes, it never feels like the director takes the violence too far.

Another of the film’s more enjoyable aspects is its creativity. It’s clear the gadgets in the film take inspirations from the wonderful toys that James Bond uses in his war on crime. From exploding cigarette lighters to bulletproof umbrellas, the technology pay homage to classic spy technology while also giving the film a special touch. Of course, the Kingsman agents, who prove that it’s possible to fight crime while impeccably dressed, are a deeply amusing part of the movie. Although inspired by other fictional espionage groups, the Kingsmen feel fully fleshed out.  

The action is beautifully choreographed and expertly shot. Unlike quickly-edited fights in mediocre action flicks, it’s incredibly easy to absorb the frantic motions in every brawl. Every punch is shot for maximum clarity. Vaughn possesses a sixth sense for organizing shootouts, so the audience sees every bullet hit its mark. The greatest example of his mastery involves a scene where Firth decimates waves of crazed people in a church, using everything from knives to a pipe organ.

Egerton turns in a solid performance as Eggsy, whose transformation from street thug to suave Kingsman agent is well-paced and investing. Firth shows off his comedic edge as the cultured yet deadly Harry. There’s something amusing about an esteemed Oscar winner knocking out teeth and breaking arms. The villains are just as cleverly written and entertaining as the heroes. Jackson is charming and hilarious as the scheming Valentine, all while speaking with a lisp that would make Mike Tyson proud. Boutella gives a breakout performance as a deadly femme fatale with bionic legs.

“Kingsman” is simply a brilliant comedic film that uses Vaughn’s successful formula of mixing violence with wry humor. It offers memorable characters who never have a boring moment. The action is remarkably fluid and serves as an example of how excellent directing can make tense moments even more exhilarating. A love-letter to both spy and parody films, “Kingsman” serves as one of the most creative and enjoyable films of the year so far.