Year Released: 2015
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine
(R, 128 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Mystery and Suspense
"True nobility is being superior to your former self." Ernest Hemingway
If the recent James Bond flicks have gotten too serious for you, not to mention, darkened, diminished, and deconstructed, then here is an antidote. But beware; the antidote is deadly in its own way, too.
Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency's ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
A self-conscious spoof of 007, its effect is almost spoiled when our spy, Harry Hart (Colin Firth) discusses the good old days with Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), our chief villain, and they actually mention Bond by name. Yes, the film is based on a comic book, but you don’t need to spell everything out for us.
Valentine: The old Bond movies. Oh, man. Ah, when I was a kid, that was my dream job: gentleman spy.
Harry Hart: I always felt that the old Bond films were as good as the villain. As a child, I rather fancied a futuristic colorful megalomaniac.
Valentine: What a shame we both had to grow up.
Unlike the Oxford educated spies working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, these Oxford-educated spies actually work for themselves, remnants of an exclusive tailor shop that catered to England’s best and brightest. Thus, like Bond, they are ever so well dressed, lethally so, we might add.
The suits? Bullet proof, of course. The shoes? They hide a hidden blade coated with a deadly neurotoxin. The umbrella? A shield and a shotgun. The accessorized cigarette lighter? A hand grenade. Sure, that sort of attire would scare the living daylights out of many a man. But for years, Harry Hart—code name Galahad—has worn his Kingsman cloth with unflappable aplomb, spoiling nefarious plots, saving world leaders and essentially making the world a safer, better-groomed place. (Pluggedin.com)
In fact, we can trace some of their sartorial choices to other spy films, too. Hart’s umbrella is reminiscient of John Steel's (Patrick Macnee) of television’s Avengers fame; his contained a rapier.
Harry Hart’s dark rimmed glasses remind us of another Harry in the spy business, Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) of The Ipcress File, the first action hero to wear glasses. That choice arising from Michael Caine’s desire to camouflage his face, so as not to be over-identified with the Harry Palmer character. Of course, the trademark glasses caught another Michael’s eye, though, Mike Myers, who modeled his Austin Powers after Harry Palmer.
Our apprentice spy Eggsy (Taron Egerton) adds a cheeky rebellion to standard brew, as does his recipe for a martini, surely one to furrow the forehead of Sean Connery or raise the eyebrows of Roger Moore – take your pick:
“With gin of course. Stirred for 10 seconds while glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth.”
Rescued from an aimless life of petty crime, Eggsy has all the roguish charm of a "one-man boy band." He is also the son of a former recruited Kingman who gave his life for Harry Hart some 17 years ago. Harry doesn’t see Eggsy’s class or past as the problem Eggsy does.
"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man," Harry says, quoting Ernest Hemingway. "True nobility is being superior to your former self."
That pep talk, and a walk through a weapon’s gallery decorated with lethal ware like a sweet shop gleaming with iced treats set up Eggsy for “the most dangerous job interview in the world.” And he has to convince the agency's head, Arthur, played by Michael Caine, that he is up to snuff. Of course, Caine now speaks in “plummy vowels” instead of Harry Palmer’s cockney accent, but it’s ever so nice to have him on the scene again.
Nothing like your sealed dormitory suddenly filling up with water in the middle of the night, or a jump from a helicopter with an unknown recruit missing a parachute to separate the spies from their JV wannabes.
Samuel L Jackson’s villain reminds us of what critic Gary Dowell says of a film “that pays homage to the genre almost as often as it rips it off, subverts it, and then gives it the finger.”
Instead of the Nehru jacketed Dr. No, the 24-carat criminal mastermind Goldfinger, the evil, superstitious Harlem drug lord, Dr. Kanga, or that most persistant cat fancier, Blofeld, we get Jackson’s Valentine, a lisping eccentric afraid of the sight of blood. He can’t seem to get a sentence out without peppering it with the F world, and his silver dinner tray has only a MacDonald’s Happy Meal to keep warm.
He's an environmentalist gone astray who favors his chosen political elites and paid for celebreities over the rest of us humans. “Mankind is the virus and I’m the cure.”
Different Drummer must confess that their end, exploding Technicolor heads set to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, or something equally as classic, was as exhilarating as the 4th of July in Chicago’s Grant Park.
However, some of the other violence reeks of an adolescent recklessness and a sick kind of voyeurism.
And the final clip, a tasteless parody of the usual Bond closing scene seduction, left a bad taste in my mouth. As much as Albert Cubby Broccoli pushed the sexual envelope with 007’s amorous adventures, we never felt we had to turn our heads away from the screen. Different Drummer is not alone in her revulsion for the final image.
By the time the film settles on one of its final images — a woman's naked rear, offered to the hero she has just met — any spryness in Kingsman has emphatically left the building. –The New York Times
Nothing defines the ultimate spy more than his signature drink. In his debut as the brash and blond new James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Daniel Craig gives very precise orders for his martini. Then he floors us if not his bartender.
“Do you want that shaken or stirred?” he asks.
“Do I look like the kind of guy who gives a damn?” Bond volleys back.
Now perhaps that exchange, more than anything else, let us know we were dealing with a different kind of Bond. Daniel Craig was going on notice that he is not playing by anybody’s book in his recasting of the iconic spy.
Eggsy’s cheeky rebellion from 007’s standard drink has the same effect, and it’s surprisingly easy to make.
Bottoms up. No pun intended.
Eggsy's Martini Recipe
“With gin of course. Stirred for 10 seconds while glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth.” –Gary "Eggsy" Unwin