Saturday, 7 March 2015

Review: The Kingsmen: The Secret Service

Year: 2015
Director: Matthew Vaughan
Screenplay: Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goldman
Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton and Michael Caine.

Synopsis is here:

I’ll probably keep this short and sweet. The Kingsmen is juvenile in the purest way. It’s more violent than it probably needs to be. There’s an air of smugness about it all, and any real message about Britian’s ongoing issues with class is lost in a medley of body slicing, literal bible bashing and inappropriate sexual gags. Despite all this, the film is so strangely cathartic in its displays of bad taste, I found it hard not to smirk. At a time in which James Bond has gone “back to basics” and reverted back to its original boys club with so much seriousness. The Kingsmen’s silliness do give an odd sense of relief, despite its raspberry blowing bad taste. Matthew Vaughn’s pulp sensibilities are strong, and the balance often feels right.

It’s clear Kingsmen wishes to be a more out and out, subversive take on the British spy genre (something you feel that Vaughan has been angling at since Layer Cake), but despite this, the film still leans towards the conservative elements that the likes of Bond have never truly shaken off (consider where we sit at the end of Skyfall). There’s lots of talk on gentlemanly conduct and nobleness. Yet the film seemingly wishes to clearly establish a certain type of Britishness. Converting the rough around the edges Eggsy (a confident Taron Egerton) to a Kingsman is a relatively fun hero’s journey, but it doesn’t hit the peak of subversion that Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block (2011) brought across. The film never really takes or challenges the Bond mantle, it mimics the franchises absurdity under a veneer of colourful gloss.

This isn’t really a problem, however, depending on how you feel about the likes of Mark Miller (writer of the comic book the film is based on). Vaughn’s brazen joy of staging Miller’s near nihilistic tendencies is the tipping scale of enjoying this film. A church sequence which involves the fatal causalities of many nasty (yet innocent) people, has caused issues with some, yet is so brilliantly executed it is hard not to admire. A particular joke near the end of the film has caused a certain amount of controversy – rightly so when reading the credits to see who Vaughan makes the film in memory of – but to me, only really highlights the type of provocations that Connery and the like were getting away with for decades. Muddled and icky? Yes, yet no more than the general politics of the film and it’s clear that if you’re a fan of Vaughan’s brand of humour, you can see the nonsense of it all.

I won’t lie. As someone as centre-left leaning as I consider myself, I didn’t find myself completely hating the films puerility as much as I often would in similar films. Vaughan’s keen direction and the solid cast clearly wish for you to be in on the joke. The Kingsmen has a sensation of a sugary cinematic purge which wants us to get in touch with some of our baser reasons for going to the cinema, before we’re reminded of our more levelled head sensibilities. I know many who will disagree with me and their reasons will be totally justifiable. But I went into this film holding a Tango Ice Blast. I think helps establish the type of film I was expecting.