Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Warning! Spoilers Ahead! I’ve tried to avoid them where possible, but some have snuck in, apologies.

Halfway during this film Colin Firth’s character, Harry Hart, is asked if he likes spy movies, to which he replies “Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones….marvelous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.” It’s pretty much voicing the film’s intent, which seems like a reaction against the more serious Bourne and Craig era Bonds, and delivers on the far-fetched theatrical plot front.

Of course, this is from the team that brought us Kick-Ass so we’re a long way from Roger Moore territory. Once again Matthew Vaughn directs a script he co-wrote with Jane Goldman based on a Mark Millar comic book, and the result is essentially what you’d expect from the above quote and that team: a plot from an old Bond movie but served with a heavy dose of profanity, hyper violence and hilarity.

kingsman pos

Colin Firth plays Harry aka Galahad, the sharp suited gentleman spy who works for Kingsman, a privately owned and run spy agency. Harry is investigating the death of a fellow agent, Lancelot (Jack Davenport), killed while on the trail of mercenaries connected with several incidents involving terrorist groups being taken out by being exposed to something which made them violently turn on each other.

With an agent dead, Harry’s boss, Arthur (Michael Caine), asks Harry to suggest someone to compete against the selection of the other agents. Harry’s unlikely choice is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of a former colleague who sacrificed himself to save Harry’s life. Eggsy lives on a rough council estate and doesn’t fit the traditional suave spy type, but Harry sees the potential he has squandered.

Eggsy in turn is impressed by Harry’s abilities as a fighter and his suave, restrained demeanor and agrees to engage in the training programme. Here he must compete against the other candidates, all of whom are posh toffs and he faces judgment and mockery from many of them, although Roxy (Sophie Cookson) does befriend him. The training is overseen by Merlin (Mark Strong), who also knew Eggsy’s father and was present at his death.

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

Odd man out- Eggsy and his fellow trainees

As Eggsy goes through his training, Harry investigates Lancelot’s death, which turns out to be connected to tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), who seems to be plotting something big and is assisted by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) an assassin who uses bladed prosthetic legs as her weapon of choice. What is Valentine’s plan and how is it connected to the free SIM cards he’s giving out?

Will Eggsy stick to the course and become a Kingsman agent? Will he and Harry be able to work out what Valentine’s up to and stop it?

This movie is an utter gem, filled with laugh out moments and hugely entertaining OTT action sequences. MWG and I laughed throughout and left the cinema extremely impressed and entertained, as did all of the people we went with. It plays with the spy genre conventions, ribbing and reveling in the excesses and ridiculousness of it.

At the centre is a fantastic performance from Colin Firth, who you can tell must have had a ball playing with his traditional persona. He doesn’t look threatening or badass, but throughout the film he carries himself with this taut restraint and posh mannerisms that suggest great personal control, which ensures that when he finally cuts loose in the fight scenes it’s incredibly entertaining.

Harry in action

Harry in action

Firth’s performance generates a lot of laughs and his stiff nature is the island of calm in the middle of the ridiculous OTT film that unfolds around him.

The rest of the cast are on fine form too, Egerton, who was a new face to me is wonderful as Eggsy, making the character believable and likable. He may front with swagger and bravado, but Egerton allows us to see the softer side and the fear which has hampered him from fulfilling his potential. Eggsy is an engaging character, guided by an inner sense of decency but also having a ball with the high tech gadgets and adventures that await him.

Egerton’s transformation from chav slacker to suited gentleman spy is well done, and best of all he maintains his grinning, life loving verve throughout, meaning that even when he’s an ass kicking spy there are still flashes of the jokey, loudmouth youth. He might have the suit now, but it’s clear that he was always a hero and that being a gentleman isn’t about where you’re from or who your family is, but how you carry yourself.

Eggsy transformed

Eggsy transformed

Of course, a lot of the scenes get stolen by Samuel L Jackson, who still has great gravitas even with the bizarre character he plays. A man with a plan for world domination who can’t stand the sight of blood and speaks with a lisp, it’s to his credit that SLJ manages to still make Valentine a mesmerizing and charismatic on-screen presence. It plays slightly with his usual type of character, as Valentine is far from a “bad ass mother f**ker”.

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

SLJ playing with his on screen persona

Valentine’s plan is a treat, the kind of nutso idea that old Bond movies would go for, a plan to save the world by culling the population by turning the masses into rage fuelled maniacs who’ll take each other out. This leads to a fantastically excessive sequence of extreme brutality as Harry takes on the congregation of a far-right church who have all gone crazy. It’s a fast paced, extreme sequence which mixes black comedy laughs with some wince inducing, bone crunching violence.

The movie zips along with a great sense of fun and while some developments are easy to see coming it still manages to surprise and amuse with little touches that toy with Bond movie tropes and builds to a crazy, but satisfying conclusion.

I also loved Gazelle, Valentine’s henchwoman who with her bladed legs is like a throwback to the colourful henchmen of Bond movies past and she’s a cool character, with a steely look in her eye and the perfect compliment to the squeamish Valentine.

kingsman gazelle

Vaughn’s direction is on point, with great comic timing, fast paced action and a joyous delight in the film’s daft touches. All in all it’s a hugely entertaining movie and left me with a big dumb smile on my face, and dare I say it, it even beats Kick-Ass.

Verdict: A magnificently overblown spy movie pastiche/homage complete with colourful villains, outlandish plots and insane gadgets. Vaughn and Goldman’s script is chockablock with laughs and the performances, particularly Firth and Egerton are extremely well done. The violence and swearing won’t make it everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it hit the spot and I found it a real treat, because I like my action movies to be a bit OTT and my spy movies on the silly side. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Jim Carrey

Today sees the release of the movie Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to 2010’s movie which I dug, and was based on Mark Millar’s awesome comic book.


One of the new characters introduced is Colonel Stars and Stripes played by Jim Carrey. Now, I’ve got mixed feelings about Carrey as an actor, but playing an unhinged nutter who dresses up in a costume to smack around crooks looks to be well within his wheelhouse, and if the trailers are anything to go by, it looks like the movie will have the same kind of brutal fun as the original.

kickass2 carrey

See, the Kick-Ass movies, like the comics, are pretty vicious, and shot through with jet black humour. I mean, the movie is called “kick-ass” for Pete’s sake, and it’s one of the movie’s major selling points. Carrey was reportedly a fan of the first which is part of the reason he signed up to be in the sequel.

However, a few months back, Carrey announced that he would not be doing any publicity for the movie, because following last year’s high profile shootings in the States he felt that “in all good conscience” he could not support the level of violence in the movie.

Now, here’s the thing, I appreciate that Carrey’s view of it might have changed following events like the Sandy Hook shootings, but I don’t know it felt like a daft move. I mean, he’d already made the film and Kick-Ass belongs to the OTT, cartoony end of the spectrum of cinematic violence. Some makes you wince, but we’re not talking gore-porn here, much of the violence is blackly comic and overwrought. The outside world may have changed, but these weren’t the first shootings in the States, and he’d been prepared to make the movie before hand.

And, while haven’t seen it, having read the comic I don’t see that there’s anything in the story that relates to Sandy Hook, I mean, I get that Gangster Squad was delayed because it’s scenes of a cinema based hit were too reminiscent of the horrible Aurora shootings. But unless there’s been some changes to the plot, I don’t see why anyone watching Kick-Ass 2 would connect it to Sandy Hook, or anything in the real world.

A bigger statement from Carrey would have been to donate all of his fee for the movie to an anti-gun charity (if Mr Carrey has done this, apologies and fair play).

Also, if anything Carrey’s stance is probably good news for the movie, as Mark Millar stated it may be worth $30million in free publicity as people debate whether or not Carrey was right or not. People have been tweeting about it, debating it in the media, hell, some idiots are even writing blogs about it.

KA2 has a definite target demographic,  and most would have already decided if it was for them or not, but there must be some people who will check it out just to see what all the fuss is about, and it’s definitely raised the profile of the movie.

I’m never entirely convinced about the relationship between violence in the media and real life, I think anyone inspired by a movie/video game/comic book/book is probably already a bit unhinged, and it seems unfair to ban it for everyone else. I mean, its like banning religion because of a few twats with homemade bombs and a misguided idea of what will get them into paradise.



Carrey’s 16 year old co-star in the movie, Chloe Grace Moretz, stated she respected his decision but made a pretty good argument:

It’s a movie. If you are going to believe and be affected by an action film, you shouldn’t go to see ‘Pocahontas’ because you are going to think you are a Disney princess….If you are that easily swayed, you might see ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and think you are a serial killer. It’s a movie and it’s fake, and I’ve known that since I was a kid … I don’t want to run around trying to kill people and cuss. If anything, these movies teach you what not to do.

And that’s true, in the first movie, the three characters who decide to pull on some tights and fight crime end up paying dearly, physically and emotionally. Save the superheroics for the comics, boys and girls.

I hope this post made sense, I kind of lost focus at the end because I’ve now got to rush off to work. Ta-ra!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Sick Day Movie Marathon

So, as mentioned on Monday I’ve been ill the last few days. I’m on the mend, but still a bit yukky so hoping that a full night’s sleep tonight will mean I’m good enough to return to work tomorrow. Anyway, to pass the time as I lay sniffling in bed I turned to LoveFilm (seems like I’m going to benefit from being a member) and had myself a movie marathon. I managed to get through four flicks in total and so here are my thoughts.

I kicked things off with a DC animated movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. I love DC’s animated stuff, and this one was quite good fun.

Plot: Lex Luthor has become President of the USA, most of the heroes have signed up to work for the government, but Superman doesn’t trust his former enemy and Batman has suspicions too. When Superman is framed for killing a supervillain the two are forced to go on the run, and must try to expose Luthor as well as stopping a kryptonite asteroid from destroying the Earth.

Review: DC’s animated stuff is quite well done, and the voice cast here is pretty impressive, especially Kevin Conroy returning as the Dark Knight. The plot is quite good, even if it feels a little rushed in places and a bit more build up might have been nice.

The animation is visually striking, but the editing is sloppy and there’s far too many times when the characters stand there in silence at the start or end of a scene.

The only real mistake is the character of Power Girl as voiced by Allison Mack. I love PG, she’s a confident, strong female heroine but here she’s turned into a bit of a wet blanket and needs telling what to do. Its a real shame to waste such a good character and you kind of wonder if it would’ve been better to switch it to Super Girl, who’s more of a fit with the sidekick like role in proceedings. Of course, this could just be geeky nitpicking and me being a bit annoyed that one of my amazonian fantasy figures was transformed into a weak little girl who needed telling what to do.

Mishandled- Power Girl

However, there are nice touches and the interplay between the two title characters is done quite well. Verdict: 6/10.

My second flick featured costumed crimefighter, but couldn’t have been more different, ladies and gentlemen, Kick-Ass.

Plot: Awkward, geeky teenager Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decides to become a costumed vigilante despite having no skills or training. The only thing going for him is that all the punishment he’s received has deadened his nerve endings and pain receptors so he can take quite a pasting, and he soon becomes an internet sensation. However, he soon realizes he’s out of his depth after he is rescued by two tougher vigilantes Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11 year old daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), who are highly trained and vicious in their quest for justice on gangster D’Amico (Mark Strong).

D’Amico however thinks Kick-Ass is responsible for the death of his men and theft of his money and tries to bring him down, failing at every turn. His geeky son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has an idea though and poses as a costumed hero himself, hoping to lure Kick-Ass into a trap, becoming Red Mist. As he realizes Kick-Ass is not their man it seems too late, the wheels are in motion and a showdown is on the cards.

Review: The film tidies up Mark Millar’s brutally dark and comic series, but its still a hard hitting, entertaining vigilante flick which manages to spoof the superhero genre while still delivering stunning action sequences.

The cast are phenomenal. Mark Strong is always good value and Cage reins it in for a lot of the flick playing the weird Big Daddy, a brutal Batman-like character who’s shown to have a geeky side and is often tender with his daughter, despite having transformed her into a ruthless killing machine.

ATJ is great as the endearingly naff wannabe hero, bringing a real loser charm to the role. Also, there are times when as a former geeky teenager his voice over and actions are painfully close to the truth. Kick-Ass has no skills and is at times a bit of a wimp, but there’s a naivety and desire to be a hero that makes him likable, and he refuses to stay down. He looks laughable in his makeshift costume and his fledgling romance with a classmate is handled extremely well and rather sweetly.

As the gangster’s son posing as a hero, Mintz-Plasse is rather good. He brings the geeky, awkward traits showed in Superbad and Role Models and its quite touching to see this shy, nerdy guy trying to please his tough guy father and earn his respect. He’s a sympathetic villain and works because he’s so similar to the hero.

The film however is stolen by Moretz as Hit Girl, the foul mouthed, incredibly brutal schoolgirl vigilante. It could’ve been a cheap gag or shock tactic, but Moretz delivers all of her lines with integrity and verve, and you just kind of go with it. There is a shocking side to seeing a child dish out all this violence and the climactic battle with D’Amico is a tad uncomfortable as he lays the smackdown on her. But I guess that’s the point. The film has tons of nice touches and great characters, but its Moretz’ Hit Girl who’ll stick in the mind longest.

Moretz as Hit Girl- Stealing the show

All in all its a funny, engaging and twisted little flick with great action sequences and a dark humour that I really dug. Verdict: 8/10

A massive shift in tone now as we move on to Larry Crowne, a rather sweet affair starring Tom Hanks, who also writes and directs.

Plot: Larry Crowne (Hanks) is a happy decent guy who works at a superstore and likes his job. However, due to not having any higher education he’s let go because he can’t advance any further. Faced with financial problems Larry decides to get an education, returning to college where he studies economics and speech. Having ditched his car for a scooter Larry is befriended by free spirited student Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who he’s a little smitten with. However, he also has a bit of a crush on his jaded, borderline alcoholic lecturer Mercedes (Julia Roberts).

Review: I liked this flick, but at the same time its riddled with flaws. Firstly, it kind of drops the ball on what could have been an interesting look at the challenges faced by the older generation in the economic crisis, with Larry having foregone formal education and served in the Navy for 20 years. Also, while Hanks is as charming as ever in the lead, you kind of wish Larry would get mad just once, instead he’s a laid back, affable bloke who aside from a bit of moping and awkwardness takes everything in his stride.

Julia Roberts does well as the fed up lecturer stuck in a loveless marriage who arrives at work each day hungover and tries to cancel as many lectures as she can. You know she’s going to end up with Larry and the fellow student is just a subplot, and it happens with inevitability rather than credibility.

Their romance feels rushed and half-baked, seriously there’s like one, maybe two scenes that we’re supposed to see as the foundation of a connection. In other hands this movie would tank badly, but the combined power of Hanks and Roberts means its still kinda sweet, even if it falls flat frequently. It could’ve been more interesting and a lot braver, so its disappointing that its quite so lacklustre, and the supporting cast are incredibly one dimensional, that being said, it does feature George Takei, which is worth a point. Verdict: 5/10.

Last up is Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm.

This rather generic poster makes the brothers look more heroic than it should.

Plot: In the 18th century, Will and Jake Grimm (Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) are travelling con artists who fake witches and demons and then get paid to vanquish them. However, they run into trouble with the French authorities that are occupying Germany, who expose their ruse and force them to travel to a remote town where the kids are being kidnapped and there is talk of witches, the idea being that the Grimms will expose the truth and restore order. However, when they get there they begin to witness things they can’t explain, and enlist the help of a local guide, Angelika (Lena Headey) who’s sisters have been taken. Could it be that there are really stranger things afoot here, and is it tied in with a local legend regarding a powerful and vain witch-Queen (Monica Bellucci)

Review: I love Terry Gilliam’s movies and this has a lot of his hallmarks- goofy humour and a love of the grotesque, dirty side of human life, with the characters spending a lot of time in the mud.

Damon and Ledger are both on fine form as the con-men brothers, with Damon shining as the swaggering, smoother leader and Ledger the one with qualms who wants fairytales to be real. They bicker with great effect and despite Damon’s Will occasionally bullying his younger sibling there’s genuine warmth between the two.

The pair are hopelessly out of their depths when faced with a real threat and Headey’s woodswoman has to take charge frequently.

Its not Gilliam’s best, and a few thoughts are left half finished and there’s a vibe of sloppiness around the edges, but that kind of adds to the charm. In a world of polished movies its nice to see Gilliam’s work retaining its rough edges and individuality. The special effects are rather good, and there’s a creepy vibe at times, you just wish he’d maybe taken a little longer putting it together, especially the backstory of the villainous queen. Verdict: 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.