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KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (review)

Review by Stefan Blitz
Produced by Adam Bohling, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, 
Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson, 
Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill

The spy movie genre of late has gotten pretty grim.

From the gritted teeth of Jason Bourne or 007 to the polite office politics of George Smiley to revenge obsessed Bryan Mills, being a secret agent doesn’t seem like much fun.

Unless, you’re a Kingsman.

In one of cinema’s most unique partnerships, comic book writer Mark Millar has teamed up with director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman for the second time to adapt one of Millar’s properties to the silver screen.

The first collaboration, 2010’s Kick-Ass, pondered what being a superhero would be like for the average teenager in the real world.  Now the attention has turned to gentlemen spy.

Scottish Millar is a bit of a P.T. Barnum of comics, playing the press with exaggerated hints of news.  But there’s a catch.

He delivers.  

So far several films based on his material have been released including Wanted, Kick-Ass 1 & 2, and Kingsman with upcoming projects including Nemesis to be directed by Joe Carnahan, Supercrooks with director Nacho Vigalando and Superior, potentially again with Vaughn.  His work on the Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four titles both heavily influenced the film versions and the rumor is that the third Wolverine film will be based on his Old Man Logan storyline.

What makes the partnership with Goldman and Vaughn interesting however is that they are often active on the screenplay while the comic is still being written, allowing for a unique collaboration and sometime cross-influence.

As for an adaptation, there are some major changes in characters and motivation, but the all of the big strokes are there in the comic.  Rereading the comic after seeing the film, I honestly think that that Vaughn and Goldman knocked it out of the park.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is terrifically entertaining.

Vaughn has made the most fun James Bond film that we’ve seen since the early Roger Moore films; including all of the key elements, gorgeous women, gadgets, a maniacal villain poised to take over the world, terrific humor, an over the top sidekick for the bad guy and huge action set pieces.

Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, the latest potential recruit for The Kingsman, a secret spy society led by Michael Caine.  He’s nominated by Colin Firth, who feels responsible for the death of Egsy’s father, a Kingsman killed on his watch over a decade prior.  Samuel L. Jackson is the lisping Tommy Hilfiger styled Richmond Valentine, a tech billionaire with plans to reimagine the world with the use of a deadly phone app.

The cast overall is phenomenal.  Firth takes on the role of action hero with poise, grace and charm and Egerton is charming and holds his own against the ensemble of established stars (a group he’s likely to join very soon). 

The script is crisp and keeps the action moving quickly and Vaughn impeccably balances the absurd with humor and tension.  Kingsman is very violent, very dark humored homage to the spy genre.  Bring on the sequel!

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