credit: 20th Century Studios

Movie Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – *****

In Kingsman 1, a hot young chav gets Eliza Doolittle’d by the sexy older daddy figure who grooms him to become Twink James Bond.

There’s other movie going on here, but that’s the part I care about.

From what I can discern, Matthew Vaughn cares about the part where he says, “What if xyz unexpected person got to be James Bond?” His idea for Kingsman is “lower class young guy becomes gentleman spy,” in much the way his idea for Argylle is “hot redhead author with a dump truck and a cat is a spy.” (I haven’t seen Argylle yet but the movie is just a Matthew Vaughn take on Romancing the Stone.)

Of all Vaughn’s movies I’ve seen, Kingsman is most effective. It’s a genuinely good action-spy movie that also satirizes the genre. A lot of the cartoonish silliness that puts people off Kingsman 2 and (from what I hear) Argylle is deployed under tight control for this first outing. It’s the perfect balance of exciting stakes and laugh-out-loud goofiness. Vaughn wanted to make a Bond movie, and he was doing it as sincerely as he is capable.

To enjoy Kingsman, you’ve got to have a high tolerance for violence, however cartoony; there is one church scene that is somewhat less cartoonish and much bloodier. Killing off the ruling class is done in a fashion that is absolutely meant to draw a laugh. They also expect you to laugh at people pointing guns at cute dogs at least once. (All dogs in this movie are safe; the only dead dog is one that died at 11-years-old of natural causes and is taxidermied). Mostly Kingsman leans on irreverent shock-humor intended to please teenage boys, Matthew Vaughn, and other people with a teenage boy’s sense of humor (me).

It’s sort of funny-huh if not funny-ha-ha seeing a movie with 2014 liberal sentiments (the church is filled with bigots whose killings are justified by their use of slurs before the shoe drops) that also makes its villain what was, at the time, regarded as a liberal-leaning figure (a tech billionaire who wants to save the world).

On that note, Samuel L. Jackson plays a cooler version of Flan Musk: a tech billionaire who wants to save the world, but he wants to be the only one who can save it, and he wants full control. There’s a bunch of sci-fi magic handwavium about SIM cards and slightly less (?) handwavium about brain chips akin to Neuralink + exploding heads. Considering Star Trek was still name-dropping Musk as some positive historic figure paving the way toward the Federation at the time, it’s almost…prescient? Or just maybe had its head up its butt less than Paramount.

Taron Egerton is adorably convincing as Twink Bond simping for Colin Firth, who is the hottest, gayest mass-murdering gentleman spy on the planet. I think Colin Firth enjoyed playing a gay daddy so much in Mamma Mia! that he was like, “I’m gonna do this four times as hard in the spy thing.” I’ve seen him in enough movies to know the difference between Gay Firth and Straight Firth. I mean, go look at Bridget Jones. Way less of a hinged wrist in that one.

I wouldn’t actually give this movie five stars nowadays if not for the fact it bounces on my fetish buttons. I don’t mind the objectification of the Swedish princess so much; I’m enough of a dirtbag to recognize someone else’s fetish and there are multiple non-stereotyped woman characters elsewhere. I just don’t get much a laugh out of generalizing about anyone needing to die. Funny coming from someone who is uniformly opposed to the very existence of a ruling class, I know; obviously I disagree with the church bigots on everything too. I just don’t care for stylization that involves dehumanizing any group of people. The world is actually too terrible for that. Leftist idealogues are just as dangerous as right wing ones and if we pretend *anyone* deserves to die en masse (like working class henchmen) then we’re on a slippery slope. Plus, Kingsman 3 totally undermines any radical message Kingsman 1 may have allowed in its interpretations.

But then again, we have Daddy Firth taking home his twink to teach him how to be a real man, and my Clitoris Activation Process also disabled the Rational Thinky Brain part of me, and all I can say is “that’s my fetish.gif” so of course it’s five stars. Taron Egerton spends a lot of time avenging his hot daddyfigure, like. So hot. Silly, homoerotic, unserious, great action scenes, smart satirization of a genre – this is peak Vaughn, and I have fun rewatching it every time.

Throw this one on the pile of “best examples of a franchise that aren’t part of the franchise” movies with Galaxy Quest and Willy’s Wonderland.

(image credit: 20th Century Studios)

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