Like most things, I’m not quite sure when I started loving bat-shit crazy things. I used to pride myself on enjoying things that could be considered “high class”. At one point I even made it a priority to inform people that American Beauty was my favorite movie. Yet, now that I’m getting to an age when it’d make sense for that to hold my top spot for cinema, I have to say that I’d probably choose to watch Kingsman: The Secret Service over American Beauty 9 out of 10 times.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is not a perfect movie, there are times when it seems confused about what exactly it’s trying to do and there are times when it probably goes a little too far. What it does do well though, is scratching an absurdity itch. It finds just the right balance between escapism and stupidity. All at once it acts as a criticism of modern day politics and capitalism while also acting as a sort of parody of spy movies, especially some of the more far fetched James Bond flicks. All of which is something that I’ve been craving a lot as I’ve begun to discard my own pretentiousness in terms of taste.
The story revolves around a lower class kid named Eggsy (played by Taron Egerton) who is recruited into a secret international spy organization staffed by only upper class “gentlemen”. It’s a beautiful amount of wish fulfillment. Being from a working class family myself I’d often fantasize about being considered special and exemplary for something that didn’t involve my clothes, wallet, or my family. I’d daydream often about rubbing shoulders with stereotypical snobs and blowing their mind with my poverty born moxie and wit. In a very visceral and vindictive way, it was nice to see Eggsy give the other more posh recruits their comeuppance.
The villain comes in the form of Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson). A billionaire who believes that in order to save the world, a majority of the population has to die. This is where the mocking of capitalism comes in. It’s easy to replace Valentine with a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Richard Branson, as he puts on a massive press conference where he touts his latest invention as a humanitarian marvel that will save the world. It just so happens that Valentine’s invention is a mind control device that will force people to kill each other. It definitely keyed into my own cynicism of CEOs who try and convince people that their motives are anything other than money.
I won’t go further into the plot, even though it is pretty predictable, but I do want to take some time to talk about the acting. The movie as a whole, when not trying to be a satire, focuses much of its attention on “fish out of water” scenarios. This carries over to the casting and the acting. To me, Colin Firth is not an action star, but he definitely steps up to the plate with this movie and knocks it out of the park. When I think of Samuel L. Jackson I tend to think of him as playing mostly angry, intense, yelling, characters a la Pulp Fiction, not cartoonish maniacs with speech impediments, but he does it brilliantly here and proves he has more range than I believe most give him credit for. All in all it seems to me that everyone in this movie was having a good time making it. No one tried to offer up Oscar-worthy performances and that’s a good thing, because if they did it would’ve ruined the movie.
I have to conclude this by saying that while it’s not necessarily cinematic gold, as long as you leave your snobbery at the door, you’ll have a good time. I mean, a fight scene that lasts the entirety of the guitar solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird is worth the price of admission by itself.