“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a 2014 fantasy secret agent comedy which brings us the British saving the world with top-notch high tech goods. This is fun and sometimes offensive James Bond with better clothes, with a seemingly unbalanced approach to women in the spy world.
Kingsman is supposedly a Savile Row Tailor, but when World War I left many wealthy and well-connected British families without heir, a group of men banded together and formed an independent international intelligence agency that would not be leashed by political associations. In 1919, the Kingsman was born, but the movie begins in 1997 in a place of particular British concern: The Middle East.
During a Kingsman operation, a probationary agent, Lee Unwin (Jonno Davies), dies to save his team. The leader of the team, Harry Hart (code name Galahad) is stricken with guilt and delivers a medal of valor to Unwin’s widow, Michelle (Samantha Womack), and her young son, Gary who goes by the nickname Eggsy. Harry (Colin Firth) advises Michelle and Eggsy that should they ever need help, they can call the phone number on the back of the medal which is also the date of Unwin’s death.
Flash forward 17 years and Internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) kidnaps a professor. Kingsman agent Lancelot happens to be in the area and makes a rescue attempt only to be literally sliced in half by Valentine’s sexy assistant, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who has fine-tuned fitness prosthetic, slicing legs. They look something like a high-tech vegetable peeler, but work like a samurai sword.
By this time, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young direction-less adult, smoldering under his loutish stepfather and his gang. Eggsy has brains and is physically fit, but never finishes what he starts. He left school and the Royal Marines. We soon learn he has crazy driving skills when, as an act of revenge, he steals a car. When the police arrest him, he calls the number and is introduced to Harry and the Kingsman.
As it happens, Lancelot’s death leaves a vacancy in the Kingsman and under the tutelage of senior Kingsman code-named Merlin (Mark Strong), With Harry’s support despite head Kingsman Chester’s (Michael Caine) disapproval, Eggsy joins a group of possible candidates for Lancelot’s spot, including a woman named Roxy (Sophie Cookson) to embark on the most dangerous job interview in the world.
Ultimately, Eggsy disappoints Harry and doesn’t become a Kingsman because he can’t shoot the dog he was given to raise at the beginning of training. But when Valentine kills Harry, in an incident witnessed by Merlin, Eggsy and the leading Kingsman Chester (code named Arthur).
Valentine has offered SIM card giveaways worldwide that grants a lifetime of free cellular and Internet service with a catch. And Valentine has insinuated himself into the leadership of all nations, inserting a microchip into his faithful followers’ necks and imprisoning those who won’t agree with his plans for solving global warming by genocide including one blonde beauty, Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), of Sweden.
In the end, Merlin, Eggsy and Roxy (now Lancelot) must save the world. Eggsy seals his entrance into secret agent life by getting to have anal sex with Tilde for releasing her from her prison. He also returns and whisks away his mother from his abusive stepfather.
The violence reflects its comic book origin (created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar). Roxy may be Lancelot (having bettered male candidates) and the Kingsman might knighting themselves with the mythical chivalry and noble cause of King Arthur and his Round Table, but the ending subverts the modern view of Round Table chivalry in favor of the loutish glamour of playboy James Bond. This conundrum is somewhat rectified in the sequel “Kingman: The Golden Circle.”
Written (with Jane Goldman) and directed with considerable flair by Matthew Vaughn, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a slick comedy with over-the-top, well choreographed violence in a world where suits and manners that make the man (or woman). Remember: Manners maketh the man.