Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
The disconnect in this film between main character and creator is so wide as to be schizophrenic.
Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth), the protagonist of “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” counsels class: knocking before entering, asking before sitting, dressing appropriately (bespoke suit) before kicking ass. I enjoyed almost every moment Firth was on screen.
The movie, meanwhile, plays in the usual lowest-common-denominator mud: highly-stylized, slow-mo/sped up martial arts sequences with too much gore and too little wit. Worse, writer-director Matthew Vaughn doubles down. He pushes boundaries, as he has a tendency to do (see Chloë Grace Moretz in “Kick Ass”), but what lies on the other side of those boundaries isn’t exactly, well, classy.
Take the Kentucky church massacre. The film’s villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a multibillionaire with a lisp and a penchant for single-colored New York Yankee caps (like Vaughn himself), can’t get politicians to confront global warming. But he has a plan. It’s basically “Moonraker” with a phone app—kill most, leave the best—and he first tries it out in a backwoods Kentucky church full of racists and homophobes. The orgy of highly-stylized violence goes on interminably. To Vaughn, no part of the human body can’t be pierced for a laugh.
Then there’s the Obama factor. For someone who has difficulty getting politicians to pay attention, Valentine oddly recruits many of them to restart the human race. These include the corrupt Swedish prime minister, who looks generically Swedish, and the president of the United States, who looks very specifically like Pres. Obama. Each recruit has a transmitter surgically implanted behind his/her ear, allowing Valentine to blow off their heads if necessary; and at the end, backed by Bizet’s “Carmen,” this happens to all of them, one after the other, like fireworks or fountains. And there goes Pres. Obama’s head. Vaughn kills off the President of the United States after implying he would betray the world.
Then there’s the butt sex. Apparently only one world leader, when contacted, refuses to go along with Valentine’s scheme to kill the rest of us: Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hannah Alström), whom Valentine locks up, transmitter-less, in a dungeon in his mountain hideout. She’s still there when Harry Hart’s protégé, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), arrives in his own bespoke suit to save the day. But first, a quid-pro-quo is agreed upon. This is a takeoff on the double entendres of Bond films (as is the mountain hideout ... as is the scheme ...), but Vaughn pushes boundaries. He blurts where Bond suggested. This can be funny, but not here, not to me anyway. If Eggsy saves the world? Princess Tilde will let him take her anally.
So instead of the final make-out shot on the raft in the middle of the ocean, we get a final close-up of her ass about to be entered.
After this, Vaughn dedicates the movie to his recently deceased mother.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Vaughn says, per “Spinal Tap,” that he’s “trying to find 11 with every scene,” which is maybe part of the problem. Each scene shouldn’t have an 11. In the church scene, I was bored, with the Obama assassination I was insulted. Butt sex, I just rolled my eyes. You can parody Bond well (see “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” starring Jean Dujardin), but Vaughn simply takes the trappings of a Roger Mooreish Bond flick and gets cruder. Imagine the movie if he pushed boundaries toward the witty rather than the scatological.