In 2010, the Matthew Vaughn directed Kick-Ass was released. The spunky film was part deconstruction of the superhero genre and part Tarantino-esque action film. It certainly was an acquired taste, and it didn’t come without controversy, but it was an entertaining and energetic entry into the superhero genre. Matthew Vaughn’s latest film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, is very much in the same vein of Kick-Ass. Instead of tackling superheroes this time, though, Vaughn is covering the world of spies and James Bond films. While the deconstruction this time isn’t as sharp and the film doesn’t go to the dark places that Kick-Ass went to, Kingsman never stops being fun while proving that Vaughn is one of the best directors of action currently working.
Kingsman: The Secret Service follows the troubled Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton) as he tries to deal with a life without much to look forward to. That is until Harry Hart (Colin Firth in an against type role) comes to recruit him as a replacement for the Kingsman, a top-level spy agency in England. Just as Eggsy is put through a series of rigorous tests, a major threat to the safety of the world comes to the forefront in the form of the Steve Jobs-esque innovator, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson in fine form with a funny but purposeful lisp).
This film isn’t breaking any new ground, especially among the films already in Matthew Vaughn’s catalogue. However, it does go to show that Vaughn is really good at what he does. The action is fantastic (with a scene set in a church being one of the best action set pieces in recent memory). The humor is used at a solid rate and in most cases actually is funny. The characters are around the board memorable enough to make the conflicts and twists of the final act really work.
As good as Vaughn’s direction is, though, the cast is just as good. It was great to see Mark Strong, Michael Caine and Mark Hamill make the most of their small roles. However, the performances from the two leads are the real highlight. Colin Firth gives one of the best performances in an already storied career. Harry Hart is essentially just another character from the Gandalf/Obi-Wan Kenobi archetype, but Firth brings so much freshness to it. It’s also quite surprising to see how much physicality Firth brings to the role. Meanwhile, Taron Egerton is fantastic in a breakout performance. The emphasis of the film is put almost entirely on him in the final act. Whereas, many newcomers would crumble under this weight, Egerton continued to bring his unique charm to the role.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast as it features a director and cast at the top of their game and just having fun.