All the Kingsman
Like Kick Ass and Wanted before it, Matthew Vaughan’s (Layer Cake) adaptation of Mark ‘Hollywood’ Millar’s 2012 collaboration with the legendary Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, anyone?) is a superior take on somewhat threadbare source material.
Vaughan’s Kingsman it turns out is eminently watchable, despite being devoid of a moral core and just a bit saggy in the mid-section.
Insert your own gags here.
Welsh lud Taron Egerton stars as ‘Chav Eliza Doolittle’ Eggsy, a rough and tumble estate kid with a penchant for petty crime whose deceased dad happened to have been a secret agent. Well, almost.
Having gotten himself into a spot of bother with the plod, Eggsy calls in a long dormant favour from mysterious paternal role model Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) and is quickly whisked off to a world of international espionage, cartoonishly megalomaniacal villainy, entrenched sexism, class warfare and patented overcranked Millar ultraviolence.
Image credit: 20th Century Fox
Turns out Kingsman, an organisation whose front is a Savile Row bespoke tailor, is a centuries old global spy operation with a severe Arthurian legend fixation (hence, Round Table codenames) and a penchant for getting kitted out like Michael Caine in Get Carter.
Which, of course, is cute, because Alfred himself features as ‘Arfur’.
Excuse me, I mean to say, ‘Arthur’.
Rounding out the more prominent members of Kingsman are Mark Strong (the Editor would hit it) as Q-alike Merlin, Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Lancelot, and a gaggle of plummy young Brits playing Kingsman contenders and inevitable chinless wonder boarding school tormentors for our man Eggsy.
Meanwhile, over on Team Bastard, we’ve got Sam Jackson (you may be aware of his work) lisping archly as Abercrombie & Fitch poster boy/tech mogul Valentine, lady Blade Runner hench-person Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) and a comically ingenious plot to save the world (by destroying it, natch) involving SIM cards that would make even Matthew Reilly blush.
Bear with me.
Returning Millar collaborator (I use the term advisedly) Vaughan delivers a candy coloured, drawing room teak and kitchen sink meets styrofoam milieu redolent of Moonraker, done up with a splash of ‘In Like Flint‘ poster art and a few winks at The Saint, all teetering on the snaggle toothed maw of one A. Powers‘ undeniable ubiquity.
Image credit: 20th Century Fox
Foregoing the winking rumpy pumpy, in finest Pinewood Studios tradition, Kingsman instead serves up a few bouts of spectacularly conceived (if not tonally jarring), claret soaked fisticuffs.
Veering between Harry Hart’s bartitsu inspired gentleman brawling, Gazelle’s food processor style chop sockey and straight up ugly, thematically confusing mass murders, Vaughan’s tight command of performance and spectacle somehow wrestle Millar’s tacky aesthetic into the realms of ‘pretty damn entertaining’, if not particularly fulfilling.
I’d even go so far as to say Christopher Nolan may have uttered a few terse profanities over Vaughan’s elegant, Bond referencing leitmotifs.
(Few, if any, directors, barring Billy Wilder, could have wrestled the clanging meta film references that somehow made it through to the finished screenplay into any kind of digestible form).
Admittedly, all of this sounds whiffy, but, somehow, catalyses into a cinema-going experience that’s admittedly confused but inarguably smashingly entertaining, a confounding occasion wherein the finished product somehow exceeds the arithmetic of its crude components.
Make no mistake, Kingsman succeeds despite itself and its ham fisted source. Vaughan once again proves he has, if not a Midas touch, then at very least a deft ability to spin shit into something rather entertaining indeed.
Originally published at www.hopscotchfriday.com.