Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Egerton) has grown up in a council estate and now the young man has fallen in with a gang of street thugs. When he gets in trouble with the law, he is sprung from confinement by Harry Hart (Firth). Eggsy doesn’t know Harry, but Harry knew his long-dead father. They both worked for an ultra-secret British spy organisation Kingsman, which, despite the name, is an independent group beholden to no particular government.
Harry works for them still. As he explains to Eggsy who he is, he shares the ideals of becoming a gentleman spy. Although splendidly kitted out in his bespoke suit and weaponised gadgets, Harry wants Eggsy to look beyond the shiny surfaces as he attempts to instill in the young man a greater sense of purpose.
He wants Eggsy to live up to his late father’s legacy and mentors him through the early stages of the training to become a Kingsman. The other trainees are from posh backgrounds and some don’t believe Eggsy is the right kind of person even to be a candidate for gentleman spy. The training is brutal and one by one the other recruits are rejected as they fail various tasks. Meanwhile Harry is sleuthing out in the world to find out why tech billionaire Valentine (Jackson) is about to create the biggest communications roll-out in history by offering free smart-phones to everyone on the planet. Take that, Samsung.
It will hardly surprise you to discover Eggsy’s training, Valentine’s smartphones and a plot for world domination are twined into a preposterous and explosive story. This movie is a very slick entertainment and although lightweight, it has a number of fun and interesting elements that it ships with. Much of British storytelling concerns class and this film is in the thick of it. Director Matthew Vaughn and long-time co-writer Jane Goldman play games with those distinctions all the way through. Eggsy the hoodie versus the self-entitled toffs. Michael Caine, possessor of the world’s best-known cockney accent, plays Arthur the snobbish head of Kingsman who wants to see Eggsy fail. They even let us know, that Eggsy knows his My Fair Lady from his Pygmalion.
Vaughn and Goldman’s script is based on Mark Millar’s comic, simply entitled The Secret Service. They also adapted Millar’s KICK-ASS (2010) into a hit movie, so there is clearly some thought that this team will bring forth another box office smash. Millar’s The Secret Service was a love-letter to early Bond. He admits to being a fan of Roger Moore’s 007 and not-at-all impressed with the antics of the Daniel Craig version. The movie has numerous nods to the feel of the early Bond films, from its musical score through to the fetishisation of luxury brand accessories repurposed with lethal hacks by Kingsman’s boffins.
Newcomer Taron Egerton gives Eggsy the charm and physicality the role requires. Colin Firth is particularly good as the John Steed-esque Harry Hart. Mark Strong, Jack Davenport and Sophie Cookson are solid in support. Samuel L. Jackson is somewhat showy in the somewhat showy role of the crazed tech genius Valentine and Algerian dancer Sofia Boutella is memorable as the blade-legged assassin Gazelle.
KINGSMAN is unsubtle yet clever. It’s a well-paced, blockbuster with a few surprisingly dud CGI moments. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places and extremely violent in others. It’s both thuggishly crude, but shows a deft touch. Director Vaughn has deliberately chosen to make a smart-actioner that will appeal to a broad audience with its comedic chops. It is not the kind of spy movie aimed at the TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY audience. If you were entertained by the first KICK ASS movie, you are likely to enjoy this. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see this doing very well indeed with audiences looking for laughs, thrills, stunts and explosions. This movie is for those who want Bond before he turned into Bourne.
KINGSMAN is currently in wide release in Australia. It runs for 129 minutes. I gave it a 6/10.