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Film review: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Thu, 15th Jan 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Where can you get thousands of exploding heads, Colin Firth as a spy in a velvet suit jacket, a woman with knives for feet, and a taxidermied dog? Kingsman: The Secret Service of course.

This is a spy movie in every sense of the word. You've got the loveable rouge with the absent parent who's overly confident but ultimately becomes the hero. There's the caricatured villain with the ruthlessly beautiful sidekick, and the mysterious, aloof and badass mentor. The plot is increasingly ludicrous with a smattering of fight scenes. There's even a villain hideout in the mountains, a room full of gadgets accessed via a secret passageway, and a spy school.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on the comic book by the same name, follows Gary ‘Eggsy' Unwin's introduction into the world of espionage with the historic and covert Kingsman organisation just as the world is threatened by a psychotic tech genius.

Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) directed the film, which starts Colin Firth as Harry Hart, the Kingsman agent and mentor to Eggsy, who is played by newcomer Taron Egerton.

Matthew Caine plays Arthur, the leader of the Kingsmen; Samuel L. Jackson plays Richmond Valentine, the villain; and Mark Strong plays Merlin, the ‘nuts and bolts' of the Kingsmen.

I didn't like or trust Colin Firth at first and that made me uncomfortable. I mean it's Colin Firth as a spy, in a suit, with an umbrella for a weapon. Why the heck didn't I like him? But he grew on me, that badass, unlucky son of a bitch.

Strong as Merlin was an unsung hero and a dark horse. I didn't trust Cain as Arthur and still don't like him as this character (nothing personal Cain, I'll love you until the end of time).

As Valentine, I have never wanted to punch Jackson more. Maybe that's the point, given he's the villain and all, but it wasn't one of those ‘love to hate' situations, just flat out loathing.

I hated his stupid glasses, I hated his leather caps, his shade on shade attire (stop trying to make 50 shades of purple happen Valentine, it's not going to happen), and I hated his lisp. That lisp. Sometimes he sounded like his usual Samuel L. Jackson self and sometimes he sounded like a deranged toddler, and I was not okay with it.

And I didn't believe him as a character. The whole, villain who thinks he needs to play God and believes he can better the world but is a total psychopath, has been done and it's been done well. But to me Valentine was a cardboard cut out with a few quirks pinned on it.

I did however feel more warmly toward Eggsy. What a rouge, what a rascal, what a jaw. With a sad past, heart of gold, and not-so-hidden talents, he played the role of the newbie in a foreign world well.

He also added some much needed grit to the polished world of the Kingsmen. Although there definitely could have been more grit. It was a bit cliché.

At one point Valentine and Hart talk about old spy movies and how this wasn't one of those, which was a bit meta and a bit cool, but it kind of was one of those movies. Cheesy one liners, check; stock characters, check; ridiculous plot, check; piles of gadgets, check.

At times the film did stray from the formula, and this was refreshing, but I think it could have done with more of this. Maybe then I would've liked it more.

After watching the trailer I was so excited to see a fresh take on the classic spy movie. I thought I was going to go into the theatre and be swept up and fall in love with it all, but that just didn't happen. I admit my expectations were high, but it just didn't meet them.

If you want some pure entertainment without having to concentrate too hard, you'll probably have a great time. Ultimately, it's harmless fun with some slick action sequences (I can see the influence of the comic book, you can practically hear ‘pow!' and ‘klabam!') and some solid characters.

Don't think too much about the exploding heads, church massacre, the fact that nation leaders and scientists follow an utter madman, no one questions month-long disappearances, and the unacknowledged trail of destruction. That stuff's not important; shh, it'll be fine, just get lost in Colin Firth's hairline and Eggsy's jaw.

It's like the slightly crude younger brother of James Bond who grew up watching films like Kickass and shows like Skins. It might disappear into the $2 bin at the video store (do those still exist?) or it might be welcomed with open arms.