“Mankind is the virus, and I’m the cure.”
Sometimes, a movie just rubs me the wrong way, sight unseen. When the trailer first dropped for Kingsman: The Secret Service, I thought it looked like the cheapest, laziest, hackiest, bullshittiest, most cynical, did I mention bullshittiest cash grab, lowest common denominator crap I had ever seen. Then, I found it was directed by Matthew Vaughn, a dude whose every movie I really, really like. Then, I found out that it was another collaboration between Vaughn and comic book writer, Mark Millar. Last time they teamed up was for Kick Ass. A movie every bit as awesome as it’s Vaughn-less sequel was terrible.
Then, Kingsman came out, made a shit load of money and was reviewed pretty well by critics. But I still couldn’t bring myself to pay to see it in a cinema. I’d had my copy at home for a few weeks, but still had no interest in actually a sitting through it. Until I was home sick from work and wanted to watch something I knew would need little attention and even less brain power. Which is why I finally I finally saw Kingsman: The Secret Service.
On a raid of some sort of Middle Eastern castle in 1997, an operative is killed. His surviving partner, Harry (Colin Firth) delivers the news to his widow and leaves a calling card, saying it can be used when a favour is needed. It’s 17 years later and the son of that widow (Taron Egerton as Eggsy) has grown into a wayward teen. When a joyride leaves him jail, he calls in Harry’s favour. Well, it turns out that Harry works for an ultra secret government agency who just lost an agent. Which means there’s an opening for a new one. Which means Harry decides the best way to make it up to his dead partner from 1997 is to make said dead partner’s son the latest member of The Kingsman.
Arriving at Kingsman HQ, Eggsy discovers he’s one of several possible recruits. What follows is a training montage as their world and gadgets get more ludicrous, while their numbers dwindle closer and closer to the one who will earn their spot as a Kingsman. And if you can’t predict exactly who will get eliminated and in what order, congratulations, I guess you just watched your first ever movie. All the while, tech world celebrity Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), is kidnapping world dignitaries in a plan to brainwash then entire world. Or something. I never really gave enough of a shit to pay attention.
So, first things first, Kingsman: The Secret Service is exactly the cheapest, laziest, hackiest, bullshittiest, most cynical, did I mention bullshittiest cash grab I expected it to be based on its trailer. With Kick Ass, Vaughn had a certain detachment from the ultra violence, but when people got hurt, or characters were threatened, there was still enough reality to make it matter. Here, he has absolutely no regard for the life of anyone on screen, so I’m not sure why we’re supposed to. When one of the recruits is killed on the very first night of training, not a single character seems to give even the slightest of shits. It really is an ugly movie in that way.
Even worse is its over reliance on CGI. Remember the good old days, when computer effects were used to make the impossible, possible? Like a T-Rex, or a liquid metal Terminator, or making it seem like Elijah Wood could act? Now, CGI effects are used to make the possible and very ordinary cheaper and easier for film makers. In Kingsman, a character will be inside their London council flat, open the door, and instead of seeing a London council flat courtyard or street, we get a very obvious green screen effect. When the film makers can’t even be assed making the mundane look believable, there’s not enough suspension of disbelief in the world to make me get invested in the rest.
And for a movie so obsessed with updating the British spy genre for the 21st century, it sure is dated in its music selections. In the opening interrogation and battle scene, set in 1997, the action is scored to Money for Nothing by Dire Strates. Not only does it have nothing to do with what we’re seeing on screen, it was already 12 years old in a scene that was set 17 years ago. And look, I’m a human being with heartbeat, so I think the guitar solo in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird is one of the most kick ass pieces of music ever recorded. But if I’m making a movie that’s supposed to redefine a stuffy old genre and drag it into 2014, I’m probably not gonna use a song from 1973 to do it
I went into this movie with an open mind, really I did. I didn’t want my negative assumptions to be confirmed and spend two hours of my life hating it. And I will say this, for a movie clocking in at over two hours, the time did pass relatively quickly. So I can’t deny being entertained on some level. I also can’t think of a single specific aspect of Kingsman: The Secret Service that actually liked. The Trivia section on its IMDB page kind of sums it up perfectly though. When more than half the trivia entries for your action, adventure, spy movie are about the wardrobe and costumes, maybe you need to rethink your priorities when putting your movie together.