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Spy Games – “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

Picture Credit: Marv Films/20th Century Fox

Picture Credit: Marv Films/20th Century Fox

When we think of spies, especially British spies, we usually think of James Bond. Ultra–suave and supremely capable, Bond is a staple of the genre because of his excellent manners, his appetite for women and booze, and his ability to get the job done. He rarely fails his missions and he doesn’t doubt his skills or his ability to make a difference. Bond films, however, shows us the man with years of hard–earned experience and we don’t see his training or how he got his “license to kill”.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, produced by Marv Films and 20th Century Fox, gives us a glimpse of a fictional spy organization and what it takes to join their ranks through the eyes of a young man who didn’t know that he had it in him escape the life he was born to and become a true hero. Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Edgerton and Mark Strong lead a talented cast in a fun and fast–paced action film directed by Matthew Vaughn. Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, and Sophie Cookson also star.

The film opens seventeen years prior, where an elite commando team infiltrates a Middle Eastern base. The four operatives, led by Agent Harry Hart (Firth), capture a terrorist for information. Hart misses that the terrorist has a bomb strapped to him, but another agent does and sacrifices his life to save the team. A remorseful Hart returns to London to offer his condolences to the agent’s widow, Michelle Unwin, and offers her a favor of her choosing. Unsurprisingly, she rejects the favor out of grief. Hart gives the medal of valor to her young son, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, and tells him to take care of himself and his mother.

In the present, Agent Lancelot (Jack Davenport) tracks another terrorist group to a cabin in Argentina where they’ve kidnapped Professor Arnold (played by Mark Hamill). Lancelot dispatches the thugs with ease before enjoying a glass of brandy. He is then killed by Gazelle (Boutella), an assassin with prosthetic legs armed with hidden blades. She works for Valentine (Jackson), a philanthropic madman who wants cull humanity to stave off Earth’s destruction. Valentine’s lisp, in a movie full of proper accents, is a unique character identifier.

Eggsy grows into a young man without dreams or direction. His mother is in an abusive relationship with Dean, a low–life criminal who terrorizes the neighborhood backed by a group of thugs. When Eggsy stands up to Dean’s men by stealing their car and smashing it up, he’s arrested and looking at jail time. Eggsy uses his phone to dial the number on the back of the medal and give the code-phrase that Hart gave Michelle years ago. Minutes later, he meets Hart once again, who explains how the history of the Kingsmen and offers him a chance to change his life. Eggsy eventually accepts and undergoes Kingsman training, meeting Merlin (Strong) and Arthur (Caine). He learns that he’s one of several recruits selected to replace Lancelot, along with Roxy (Cookson).

The recruits endure survival training and team–building tasks that even Jeff Probst might consider extreme to test their skills and ability to think on their feet, including dog training. Hart links Valentine to the former Lancelot’s death and pursues him. As celebrities and world leaders disappear worldwide, Valentine’s sinister endgame is revealed. When the Kingsmen are rocked by a second death, Eggsy must choose between his old life and a new one different from anything he ever imagined.

Firth’s Hart plays a great mentor to young and street–smart Eggsy, teaching him that his upbringing does not define him and that anyone he can, if he chooses, change his life. Merlin is a witty Q-type gadget and computer man devoted to the organization and the cause. If these gadgets make you jealous you should check out these 10 everyday carry knives, though you might not have the training the kingsmen have! Michael Caine’s Arthur plays the aristocratic snob very well, fully believing that Eggsy is unsuited to be a Kingsman due to his commoner status.

Edgerton avoided making Eggsy into a caricature by playing up a young man who cared about his family but didn’t know how to help them or himself. The nickname is unfortunate, but Edgerton transformation from hooligan to gentleman is believable and makes it easy to root for him by the end of the film.

Sofia Boletta’s Gazelle is the straight–woman to her employer’s comical personality. Her boss hates blood but Gazelle loves to spill it. Valentine is regarded as a genius but Gazelle knows his plans and equipment better than he does. She keeps him on track, often reminding him that being a villain means killing people. She enjoys the carnage that Valentine leaves in his wake while he’s turning away from it.

Jackson, as a person, looks the same in most of his movies, but he made me forget that he’s the same man who played Julius Jackson in Pulp Fiction and is also a major fixture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Nick Fury. Whether a lisping Valentine is telling the Brits in the film that they talk funny, or calmly and rationally explaining to various people why committing mass–murder to save the world is a good plan, or turning away in disgust at the sight of massacres that he started, Jackson enjoys himself in every scene. Clothed in street gear, he still gives Valentine a charisma that gets people to sign on to his insane ideas. Valentine’s exchanges with Hart make this film worth the price of admission.

The movie’s visuals both help and hinder. Every fight scene in the movie is graphic and brutal, and one scene involves a free–for–death match inside of a church. My only real issue is that almost every member of the main cast who uses a weapon is capable of executing perfect head–shots on anyone they choose…including each other. The number of exploding heads in this film bordered on the absurd, but it made for a good laugh in the context of the movie.

The Good: Fun story, solid performances, and great visuals. Ladies, there are men in suits with accents.

The Bad: Graphic violence. Don’t take your small kids to this one.

The Verdict: Suit up and go see this movie today! Great alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey.

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