Kingsman: The Secret Service (Review)

Reviewed by:
On 27th January 2015
Last modified:27th January 2015


UK Release: 29 January 2015

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson

Manners maketh man. It’s a lesson that often goes untaught in this ungallant age, but ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ delivers swift and brutal justice to those who forget. And you might not want to get in the way of Colin Firth and his pint of Guinness.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ introduces Harry Hart – an international spy played by Colin Fith who operates out of a swanky tailor shop in London’s Saville Row… and he happens to be one of the few remaining men who stand between us and the total collapse of society.

The titular Kingsman agency is a non-governmental intelligence agency, operating at the highest level of discretion… and with a message of peace, they seek to keep the world safe and sound.

But what happens when a new recruit challenges everything they stand for?

[Review: Ex_Machina]

Introducing Eggsy – a ballsy, young lad who grew up on a council estate. And as his rivals at training will tell you, he’s not exactly Kingsman material. At least, he doesn’t have a plummy accent, anyway. But what he does have is the grit, determination, intelligence and skill to get onto the programme… as well as an enthusiastic sponsor named Harry Hart who just wants to shake things up a bit.

Director Matthew Vaughn is on fire with this action-packed, thrill-ride that sets up all the clichés of a classic Bond film and then smashes through them regardless. Penned by Vaughn himself and Jane Goldman (and based on a comic book by Mark Millar) it’s a subversive trip through everything that makes a spy movie. But with that unusual, gritty twist that we come to expect, it’s more than just a farce. Sure, there are some hilarious moments throughout, but ‘Austin powers’ this is not. In fact, it’s far closer to Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Kick-Ass’ in tone as well as being every bit as bloody.

Of course, Colin Firth is on top form in a role that he seems to have been born to play. He’s charming, charismatic and brutally violent when the time calls… while being utterly precise in everything he does.

We’ve already seen Firth in action during the film’s trailer – when he takes on a pub full of ruffians during one of his first meetings with Eggsy. But watching it all play out on the big screen is just glorious. And a later fight scene in a hard-line American Christian church just hammers home how well the fights are choreographed.

And how well Colin Firth does these big action scenes.

Thankfully, the gentleman spy and his apprentice have the perfect foil in the form of Valentine – a megalomaniac tech-genius played by Samuel L. Jackson, who rather hilariously can’t stand the sight of blood. Obviously this is played up for laughs and includes a rather amusing scene where his footblade-wielding henchwoman is forced to cover up the bodies of her victims with white sheets.

And in a film which obviously involves a lot of grim death scenes, you can’t help but laugh at the irony.

And that’s largely what ‘Kingsman’ is all about – setting up expectations based on the spy film genre before beating them down senseless. But there’s also a lot more to it than that. It’s a rags to riches story which Eggsy amusingly likens to ‘My Fair Lady’… with the added bonus of guns, tech gadgets and some rather smart suits.

And don’t get me started on their shoes. Oxfords not brogues? My sentiments exactly.

[Review: Interstellar]

Although there are plenty of references to modern spy movies throughout, it’s clear that ‘Kingsman’ is more happy lampooning the exploits of the one and only James Bond. Harry says it himself: “Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.”

What we end up with is an entirely entertaining, funny, charming, intelligent look at some of the highs and lows of traditional spy thrillers. And as Eggsy steps up to become a Kingsman agent, he might even save the world.

But does he get the girl?

It’s not every day I give a four-star review to a film which ends with a Scandinavian Princess being buggered. But don’t worry… it’s not that kind of movie.

Ryan Leston

About the Author

Ryan Leston is the Founder and Editor of Screen Jolt. He's a big movie nerd from Cardiff who loves all things Star Wars. His favourite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back and he still wants to be Han Solo when he grows up.