Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of riskiest, ridiculous, and strange modern action movies in recent memory, combining an over-the top plot, shrewd parody, and excessive violence. Despite the film’s ambitions to be unique, the film fails to find it’s own identity and comes off as convoluted and tedious.
Director Matthew Vaughn definitely tries hard to give the film a unique style. However, the stylized action sequences, which utilize shaky camerawork and quick cuts, are ultimately ineffective in their effort to become unique. The gratuitous violence is clearly attempting to be comedic in its nature, but it’s generally more distracting to the film’s plot than it fits with the style. The film walks a difficult line between comedy, parody, and legitimacy, and it’s sometimes very difficult to determine what its intentions are.
The film’s plot also represents a conflict of interest. The plot, involving a young man recruited into an international spy agency, is brimming with clichés, whether it’s the rigorous training, the deceased father subplot, the abusive stepfather, or the over the top villain using technology to destroy the human race. By having such a “by the numbers” plot, the film suggests parody, but strangely much of the film tries to take a more serious approach on the subject matter. At points it tries to change up the formula (many times by directly addressing it’s context as a spy film), but those scenes are mostly ineffective. Simply by branching out and being “different”, doesn’t mean that it’s “good”.
Despite the muddled direction, many of the actors are able to deliver fine performances. Taron Eggerton delivers a charismatic and humorous role as the lead, and despite his rather predictable character arc, he manages to carry much of the film. Colin Firth is strong in a supporting role, though his character’s story ultimately diverges from the main plot, which ultimately makes him less interesting. Mark Strong and Michael Caine are serviceable in smaller roles, though they ultimately are underused and given little comedic scenes. Samuel L. Jackson definitely goes all out in a villainous role, but even eventually feels campy and out of place.
The film’s score is impressive, but feels out of place, as the more dramatic score feels out of place in the comedic setting. There’s many visual effects that despite feeling oddly stylized, are well put together and look good. When the action sequences aren’t as stylized, they can become entertaining, as does some of the quippy dialogue.
It’s a disservice to call Kingsman: The Secret Service a bad film, but ambition does not equal quality, and the film fails to succeed in it’s genre. Despite it’s ambitions and concepts, it’s ultimately ineffective in it’s attempt to cross genres. Grade: C-