A few months ago I was on the set of a low budget British movie called Slapper and Me. Wandering around the soundstages was a young actor with the air of someone who was destined for great things. He looked like the sort of bloke breathing rarefied air.
After looking at his CV on IMDb, I saw he was set to appear in the new film from Matthew Vaughn and was intrigued.
Fast forward to now, and we have one of the most audacious British movies seen in many a year.
Thrilling fight scenes, dapper secret agents, gadgets galore and some of the filthiest dialogue to ever grace a Bond-inspired movie.
Welcome to Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn’s splendid homage to gentleman spy capers such as John Steed’s Avengers, 007 and assorted other genre classics.
Colin Firth is a perfect fit as Harry Hart, the agent who owes a debt to his dead colleague.
So after paying his widow (Samantha Womack) and young son a visit, years later, grown up tearaway ‘Eggsy’ (Taron Egerton) calls in Hart’s debt; The latter gets him out of prison after a joy riding incident and decides he would be perfect to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Every Bond-inspired fantasy adventure needs a megalomaniac ready to take over the world, and a lisping Samuel L Jackson clearly has a great time as the obligatory bad guy, Richmond Valentine.
With his slinky female sidekick and her lethal artificial feet, the duo are a formidable match for Hart and Eggsy as the psychopaths plan a global cull via Sim cards.
The first half of the movie feels like Vaughn’s previous hit, X-Men: First Class. Training exercises to get the young protagonists up to speed, followed by a do-or-die mission in which they get to execute said skills.
But there are also standout set pieces that linger in the mind long after the closing credits have rolled. In this case a scene in a church that has to be seen to be believed.
Harry Hart’s unhinged assault on the congregation makes it one of the most jawdropping scenes of recent years; you’ll never hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird in the same way again.
Then there is that thrilling finale. It clearly owes a debt more to Austin Powers or Keith Lemon rather than any Ian Fleming creation.
There are no Bond-style double entendres here. Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman set their stall out amid brilliant flashing lights just in case you didn’t get the innuendo.
Co-star Michael Caine clearly had it written into his contract that he could play the whole movie sat down, while there is good support from Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Jack Davenport among others.
Halfway through Kingsman, I was having such a good time I thought I could watch this again. And although I would have changed that final derriere-centric scene, this is mostly great entertainment made by a team at the top of their game.
It might not be by Royal approval, but judging by the fact my screening was almost sold out, I imagine it will go down a storm with the masses, even if some do come out shocked.
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