Action/Adventure, 129 Minutes, 2014
In the past decade we’ve been flooded with gimped, sanitized PG-13 action movies. Bloodless, asexual, effects-driven action replaced the hard-hitting, foul-mouthed classics of the 80’s and early 90’s. Similarly, spy movies drifted away from fun, gadget-filled contests between womanizing gentlemen agents and volcano-habitating super-villains to gritty, dystopian melodramas featuring corrupt governments and more double-crosses than a confirmation ceremony for twins.
This is the cure for all that.
It follows a group of self-appointed, shadowy, international super-spies that keep the world safe from evil. They also name themselves after the knights of King Arthur’s court. When one of their number is killed, a replacement is chosen from a group of elite candidates. Galahad (Colin Firth [IMDB] stepping impressively out of his comfort zone) has selected, for various reasons, Eggsy (Taron Egerton [IMDB]), a low-born London hooligan, as his candidate.
In parallel, Galahad is working to uncover the plot of an eccentric billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson [IMDB]) who has decided to take a more direct approach to solving the problem of climate change. This, and a few other themes, feel like preaching at times, but are harmless and serve their purpose well.
As much as I despise the uselessness of the Motion Picture Association of America, this is unabashedly “R” rated. The superbly choreographed action sequences are brutally distinctive and dripping with style. Bad language is rampant, as befits our hero’s unrefined upbringing. This said, the movie is far from gratuitous; there’s no nudity and little overt sexualism.
Firth is undeniably a great actor, but who would have guessed that he could be an amazing action star? The absolute highlight of the movie is an incredibly complex, extended melee between Firth and a large mob set, incredibly well, to “Freebird”. You might remember that director Mathew Vaughn [IMDB] did a similar, just as effective, scene with Chloë Grace Moretz [IMDB] in 2010’s “Kickass” [IMDB].
Most importantly, the movie is fun. There’s a whimsicality to it that’s been too-long forgotten by Hollywood. Serious events take place, many of which pointedly toy with the tropes of the genre, but they’re never allowed to overwhelm the script’s core of clever silliness. This is a movie, after all, featuring an extended sequence of exploding heads set to “Pomp and Circumstance“.
“Kingsman” is a rare treat. A mature, balls-out adventure with a sense of humor. That it’s also self-aware and clever-as-hell is icing on an already luxuriously decadent cake.