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Movie Night – 'Kingsman' pleasant surprise as gentlemanly secret agent (Feb. 25, 2015 issue)

This isn’t the best time of the year for good movies. All of the Oscar-nominated movies are past their prime and it’s not yet time for the Summer blockbusters to hit the screen. For those reasons, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a pleasant surprise.
Colin Firth stars as Harry Hart, a.k.a. Galahad, a gentleman spy for an independent espionage agency known only as the Kingsman. The Kingsman agents pose as tailors and they are able to carry out covert missions without the bureaucracy and without the political considerations that hamstring government agencies.
When a Kingsman agents dies in the line of duty each existing agent must propose a candidate to fill the position. When the agent known as Lancelot dies on a solo mission Harry proposes Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) as his candidate. Despite his obvious athletic abilities and his above-average intelligence, Eggsy’s life is heading in the wrong direction before receiving the invitation to apply to be a Kingsman. Eggsy is also the son of a former Kingsman, one of Harry’s fallen comrades.
Eggsy agrees and is thrust into the most dangerous job interview in the world along with the other candidates. The training is extreme, adventurous, and dangerous. Eggsy doesn’t fit in with everyone else. He’s not from a wealthy family and didn’t go to school at Cambridge or Oxford like the other candidates. His fellow candidates never let him forget it either.
While Eggsy is busy training Harry is investigating the death of the Kingsman agent. His search leads him to eccentric technology billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Harry makes contact with Valentine as a possible donor to an environmental charity run by Valentine. Harry is unable to discover what Valentine is up to, but he is determined. At the same time many celebrities, world leaders, and aristocrats from across the globe go missing.
“Kingsman” is surprisingly entertaining. In a way it’s a spoof of secret agent movies, but it’s more than that. There’s a lot of action, many laughs, original writing, and even some drama thrown in for good measure. In several parts the movie is way over the top, but that’s the point of the satire in the movie. The filmmakers went out of their way to poke fun at the spy movies of old (“Kingsman” has more gadgets than a Bond movie) while at the same time refusing to follow their lead. “Kingsman” intentionally veers from any type of formula.
The acting is, for the most part, very good. Colin Firth is always excellent, even though his role here is different than his usual. Harry’s fighting skills are almost unparalleled and, despite his polite demeanor, Firth portrayed the deadly gentleman spy flawlessly. Taron Egerton was also impressive as the irrepressible Eggsy. He has a bright future. Samuel L. Jackson is not very evil for a bad guy, but again that was a purposeful decision by the filmmakers to make “Kingsman” different from all other spy movies.
For a movie that in large part is about being a gentleman (Harry tries to teach Eggsy what it means to be a gentleman), there was some shockingly foul language and quite a bit of brutality. For instance, Valentine’s sidekick who does all the dirty work for him is named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Gazelle is a double amputee below each of her knees. She has prosthetic legs that contain razor sharp blades that extend when she is kicking. She proceeds to slice and dice anyone who threatens Valentine or his plan in a myriad of ways. It gets a little ridiculous.
Whether you like secret agent movies or not, if you want to enjoy yourself at a movie you can’t go wrong with “Kingsman.” While a few tweaks could have made a large improvement, the best thing that can be said about the movie is that it’s a lot of fun.
Grade: B+
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language, and some sexual content.