Director: Matthew Vaughan
Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Caine
There are films that you go in expecting to be good. You know what is the real treat? When that film exceeds your expectations and make you go out on a limb and proclaim, in February no less, that Kingsman probably is the most deliciously twisted film of the year.
At first glance, what stands out is violence - stylistic, intense and gratuitous - which is present in ample measure. But then, what do you expect from a film that kills off a LOT of people in the opening sequence -- one of them being vertically sliced into two? The expectation that this hyper violence will be balanced by hyper comedy because, after all, this film is a spoof on all things spy -James Bond, Jason Bourne, and even that hard-working, time-pressed TV super sleuth Jack Bauer (there's a pug named after him).
So, sure enough, after all the killings are done, its perpetrator Gazelle -- who has blades for legs which come real handy when you got to chop up a few people in the line of duty - carefully covers up the corpses with linen. Because she has a boss who wants to finish off most of the humanity but can't stomach the sight of blood. "I vomit, projectile," explains the lisping megalomaniac who is a Silicon Valley billionaire in his free time, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson).
A film so full of subversive comedy and stylised violence, what is not to like?
Now, taking a stab at the story: A super-secret spy agency called Kingsman works on the line of King Arthur's roundtable and operates from a Savile Row shop in London's tony Mayfair. At the top of the heap, or if we are going deep cover, is Arthur (Michael Caine). His Galahad is Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and Lancelot (Jack Davenport in too small a role) is the guy who just got sliced up.
The organisation's aim is simple: Suits are a modern gentleman's armour and Kingsmen are the new knights. To replace Lancelot, a team is assembled. While most are privileged toffs, there is an unlikely entrant - Hart's choice who is a local tough named Eggsy (Taron Egerton). As Merlin (Mark Strong) puts them through an intensive training, we see everything that we associate with Bond and beyond - poison pens, bulletproof umbrellas, martinis that need to be stirred for 10 seconds while looking at an unopened bottle of vermouth… well, you get the idea.
Facing this gentleman's club is Valentine, an ecological doomsayer who believes the only way to save the earth is by culling humanity. So, while he is giving the privileged of the planet a safe haven, he plans to kill off the pleb. And if that's not enough, he wears a baseball cap with a suit!
No, the irony is not lost on us and that's where this film scores. A film which mostly works as a parody and at times is too honest to its comic book genesis is also a social comment on plebs vs privileged.
Now, coming back to the film's strength - violence. After Firth's Hart attends a hate-spewing session inside a Kentucky church, we see people left mangled and killed in so many fashions that it is disorienting. The sequence and the guitar solo which it plays to will stay with you long after you have left the hall.
The climax is also mind-blowing, literally so. We see people's heads disintegrating into psychedelic mushroom clouds as Baby Let It Go plays in the background. The man-o-woman action sequence between Gazelle and Eggsy will remind some of an earlier Tarantino.
Both Firth and Egerton perform solidly in the film. As the special agent who believes 'Manners maketh man', Firth has a blast. Who else can you see giving a lesson on oxfords vs brogues? The verbal duels between Firth and Jackson regarding spy films form some of the most entertaining moments of the film.
Egerton is a great find and we hope to see more of him onscreen. the way he out-Firths Firth is amazing.
Watch: Kingsman review
As the nutty Valentine, Jackson again reminds us that he can do so much more than Avengers' Nick Fury gives him chance.
It is down to director Matthew Vaughan (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) that the film has that deranged yet boisterous quality about it. However, this one's only for those who can stomach unimaginable quantities of violence. The rest, like Valentine, need to look the other way.