Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Manners maketh man.
Remember back in the day when spy movies used to be all the rage? The gadgets, the suits, the girls? Well, I feel like there hasn't been any real gripping spy flicks out there- I mean, the new bond movies aren't bad or anything, but they don't seem to really call out to my movie-going self to keep coming back for more. Maybe it's the removal of some of that cheese? Well, considering I hadn't heard anything negative about this particular British flavored flick, let's all get our silly attempts at talking with accents out of the way and see if this little drink ends up being a martini on the rocks or just a glass of crudely flavored water.
Our story starts a bit before our story proper actually takes effect. We see a team get helicoptered into a fortress to get a high-value target (with explosions promptly throwing our title scrawl out the windows at us), and the four find him seemingly easy enough. While some interrogation is taking place, it's discovered by one of the younger members that the HVT has a live grenade (somehow), and he sacrifices himself to save the others. Being the very nature of spies being secretive, there really isn't any good way to inform the man's wife of his demise - as outside of a blanket "he saved my life" no real details can be delivered - but the leading operative does leave a medal and a promise with her. Should she ever need a favor of any kind, as a debt of honor he will repay he act of her husband.
We then fast forward some time, the wife's kid is pretty well grown up into a bit of a street punk - good hearted if not rough around the edges, but also quite skilled and smart in a manner of things that always ended up getting abandoned due to his family situation. This is about to change after he ends up arrested and makes a call to the number on the back of a certain medal given by his mother. In part, this change is due to a certain "opening" in the spy organization of finely tailored men known as Kingsman - the same place the boy's father worked - when one of their operatives was unfortunately killed during an impromptu rescue mission. At this point, we get to experience some training sequences - various sorts of tests to check how compatible the potential recruits may be.
While this is going on, the organization keeps searching for ties to mysterious disappearances going on that may be linked to the death of their other agent. Sure of some sort of plan, yet in the dark about as what, they work their leads and keeping going down the path to a very rich Sam Jackson, in which case things start to thicken a bit. When the agent goes to investigate a church that's supposed to be the testing ground's for the evil plot, he ends up falling victim to the plan himself - but now the Kingsman know the plan, even if not the fine details of it. Will the Kingsman manage to stop whatever nefarious plan is going to happen before it's too late? Can the boy step up and become a real Kingsman?
It's pretty basic spy movies as far as the plot goes, and yet at the same time ends up being a coming of age movie as well thanks to the boy's inclusion. In a way, this also sort of breaks apart the more common elements of the spy flick - the bedding count is much less than James Bond for example - while also still allowing for some nifty gadgets. The characters end up making things work much more than the plot in this sense - it's not a totally unbelievable plot in any sense, but the actors do just a fine job of bringing character to their parts that they simple outshine the plot.
Plot and intrigue is all fine and good, but what really wins my hearts is some well done action. When it comes to that, Kingsman certainly delivers in droves. From fancy hectic fisticuffs to some equally fancy gunplay, by far my favorite scene ends up being the church set. If any of you keep up with my reviews, or at least have seen Hard Boiled, you'll know exactly why. A lot of modern action particularly creates very hectic action by doing a lot of hard cuts to different angles during fights - think Transformers - that can lead to confusion or sometimes (for some) even a bit of nausea. What the church scene does better than this as does the aforementioned Woo movie is to take out those cuts and just provide one clean, straight shot through the entire thing. As much as I love classics, I actually feel I have to give it to Kingsman as to which has done it better however, as the mix of gunplay, fist fighting, and moving through the environment of the scene all without cutting to different shots really feels much more kinetic and fluid here. I enjoyed the scene enough that I'd almost wager that anyone who can stomach a bit of violence should watch the movie for that scene alone.
As stated before, the actors do a wonderful job. Our villainous Jackson ends up bringing a decent chunk of humor to his roll, and the lisp is both a character trait that helps set him apart and also set up some of that humor - such as when he makes a comment about how hard it is to understand the British when they get talking with their accent. Between that and the McDonalds "fancy dinner," you should at least get a chuckle somewhere. The other parts of comedy largely revolve around the young disciple stepping up into his fathers shoes and being a bit scrappy or dumb (in the case of picking a Pug thinking it was a bulldog). Some of this is all made possible by the great balancing of audio allowing the actor's line delivery to really shine through.
If you couldn't tell, I rather enjoyed this film. Action fans should find it worth sitting through for the church scene alone, and spy fans should enjoy some of the gadgets (boot knives, darts, umbrellas) as well as the overall spy plot. Still, the "boy becomes a man" part of things allows both an intro to becoming a spy as well as a character the average person could get behind. That all being said, it gets violent, so if your a bit against that it might not be your cup of tea.