Published Feb 13, 2015Because the spy genre has already been perfected and then expertly parodied over the years with your James Bond and Austin Powers films respectively (among others), it's easy to forget how exhilarating it is to envision becoming a covert agent with a host of weapons and gadgets at your disposal. Though Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn't exactly re-invent the wheel in this regard, it does succeed in turning the genre on its ear a little and injecting enough adrenaline and stylized violence to make saving the world from megalomaniacal villains a whole lot of fun again.
Almost two decades after Kingsman agent Harry (Colin Firth), or Galahad as he's known, mourned the heroic death of his fellow agent Lancelot, he finds himself recommending Lancelot's son Eggsy (Taron Egerton) to replace another recently deceased agent who was killed at the hands of nefarious communications billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Eggsy hardly seems like an ideal candidate; he's a perennial underachiever whose commitment to protecting his mother from her abusive boyfriend and his brutish friends has landed him in trouble with the law.
But Eggsy excels in the harsh trials used to whittle down the field of prospective agents, showcasing a natural aptitude for skydiving, firing a weapon and even training a pug. As Harry begins to unravel the particulars of Valentine's plan for world domination and shows Eggsy the benefits and responsibilities of becoming a Kingsman, the two develop a significant bond based on trust and respect.
With director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) at the helm pushing the usual boundaries of good taste, this isn't your grandfather's spy flick. It features a henchman slicing people in two with her razor-sharp legs, a frenzied free-for-all inside a church set to the climax of "Free Bird" and a mass of heads exploding into an operatic fireworks display. While it may not be novel to see our hero rescuing a damsel in distress, it's certainly rare to see a princess promising him anal sex as a reward for his efforts.
The actors all bring valuable qualities to the table, with Firth (and Michael Caine as a senior agent) lending an air of sophistication to the proceedings and Egerton finding the right note of brash rebelliousness for his neophyte. But it's Jackson who winds up stealing the show by creating a diabolical villain we haven't quite seen before. Casually clad in baseball caps and sneakers, his lisping Valentine walks a fine line where you're never entirely sure what Jackson is doing is brilliant or terrible. But you always want to see more of it.