Kingsman: The Secret Service is Much Better (and Much Raunchier) Than You'd Expect

Movie Review

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Colin Firth admitted recently that he always dreamed of playing James Bond, and that he only accepted his role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, opening Thursday night at theaters area-wide, because he assumed it was his last chance to play a fashion-savvy gentleman spy.

Director Matthew Vaughn, the creative force behind Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, said he wanted Firth for the role because he's the last person anyone would expect to kick anyone else's ass.

You heard it here first: It's an inspired choice. Firth reveals himself to be terrifically limber — and a pedigreed actor to boot! — but he's only one of the highlights in this surprisingly smart and subversive action-comedy.   

The Kingsmen are an elite super-secret team of special agents, headquartered in the bucolic UK countryside. When one of their number is killed in action, a new spy must be selected from a crop of  hand-picked recruits. Firth’s character — codename: Galahad — taps a petty criminal named Eggsy from the mean streets of London with whom he shares an important connection.  

Eggsy is portrayed with gusto and charm by the unknown Welsh actor Taran Egarton. Firth and Egarton, by the way, are about as unlikely a combo as Agents Kay and Jay from Men in Black, but their relationship is just as chock-full of humor and sentimental streaks.

Eggsy’s trials and tribulations in the competitive Kingsman training program recall the origin stories of a typical superhero movie, and even though the concept might seem stale, rest assured that this take is super fresh. Mark Strong, as Kingsman secretary-cum-tech-wizard-cum-babysitter — codename: Merlin — is loose and likable and flashlessly funny in the supporting role. 

Naturally, there’s a villain involved, an outlandish media mogul (played by a Samuel L. Jackson) bent on global genocide. The Kingsmen, old and new, must find a way to thwart his elaborate plot against a ticking clock. Jackson's lisping gangster tycoon seems almost too goofy for an already goofy film, but to his credit, he commits. 

With snappy dialogue, dry British humor, and a cheeky self-awareness of the genre itself, this one’s much more than a popcorn action movie. But be aware: It’s rated R for a reason. Some of these fight sequences are as gory as Game of Thrones.

Consider Kingsman a pleasant February surprise. (I certainly plan on going to see it again).

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