After an unfortunate death within the Kingsman spy network, Harry Hart (Colin Firth) chooses the son of the deceased spy as an apprentice and replacement. The unlikely apprentice Eggsy distinguishes himself, only to get involved in stopping an evil mastermind.
In an age when we don’t know anymore what James Bond should be about because the archetype has become a cliche, Kingsman: The Secret Service smartly takes that cliche and moulds a great action/comedy out of it.
The James Bond parody Kingsman: The Secret Service offers a perfect combination of action, comedy and homage to the classic spy movie. The film got screened here at a perfect time, January and February, to enliven those dreary months of cinema. Because of the late release in the Netherlands, Kingsman competes with Mad Max: Fury Road and the Avengers: Age of Ultron as one of the better movies of 2015.
The movie perfectly knows how much of a parody it is. It even spells it out to the audience, as Harry Hart (Colin Firth) talks about how much he loves the old James Bond movies with their over-the-top villains and their elaborate evil plots. The movie then proceeds to walk down precisely the same path. Apprentice Eggsy also gets a dog named J.B. which could either stand for James Bond, Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer.
The movie is dripping with Englishness. The gentleman-spy as portrayed by Colin Firth in a very unlikely role is always civilized and well-dressed. Eggsy the apprentice is of course the opposite of that, coming from a poorer neighborhood, which only contrasts with the Kingsman attitude. However, the movie also avoids the arrogance often found in elite society as other apprentices who embody just that arrogance also fail the tests. This way, the movie positions the gentleman-spy as walking just the right line of being worthy of emulation without the arrogance of elite. While the current James Bond movies constantly try to reinvent what it means to be a gentleman-spy, Kingsman goes back to the archetype and nails it to the extreme.
Having established all this, the movie offers some really entertaining action and set pieces. The film is constantly entertaining and well-paced, which is a real accomplishment. Most of the spy clichés are addressed, most notably in the villain (Samuel L. Jackson). He too plays a most unlikely role, but in true supervillain fashion he has an underground lair, an evil plan and a noteworthy sidekick. Only at the end I feel that the humor goes a bit too far and deviates just a little bit from this side of credulity. Throughout most of the film the humor is a bit restrained and built up with intelligence, but at the end it all becomes a bit cartoony.
Later in 2015 the other spy comedy Spy (2015) was released but cannot compete with Kingsman: The Secret Service in wit, originality and vision. Not in anything, really. Spy, albeit entertaining in its own way, really only underscores the quality of Kingsman.
The double title suggests that many more Kingsman movies could be made. I would be happy to see them.