Hammering Out... is a series of movie reviews featuring a lively he said/she said discussion between John and Julie. Next up: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE.
JOHN: Blame The Dark Knight. As good as that movie was (and it was excellent), its serious and dour tone influenced not only superhero flicks but all other kinds of franchises, including James Bond. I'm as big a fan of Skyfall as you're likely to meet, but you can't deny it was miles away from what Roger Moore and Sean Connery were doing in the '60s and '70s. Matthew Vaughn's new film, Kingsman, aims to change the landscape a bit, and inject some campy fun back into the spy genre. It succeeds. Big time.
Working off a Mark Millar comic book as inspiration - much like he did with Kick-Ass - Vaughn and his co-screenwriter Jane Goldman have cooked up a cleverly-plotted, gleeful and definitely R-rated action comedy. The budget may not be as high as other action films we've been accustomed to, and it sometimes shows with rather obvious green screen effects and cartoonish CGI, but that's part of the movie's charm. And, rather than get bogged down by any limitations, Kingsman just barrels past them, secure in its storytelling and expertly chosen cast.
I've never been a huge fan of Colin Firth, but I love him here. He's perfectly cast as the veteran secret agent, Galahad, who takes on a mentoring role to new recruit, Eggsy, played by acting newcomer Taron Egerton, who's also quite good and even appears to do his own parkour stunts. Kingsman borrows multiple elements from the Bond franchise, Men in Black, and Kick-Ass, but it subverts them in a highly entertaining fashion and makes them its own.
The movie is super-violent, but the violence is exaggerated for comedic effect which makes it all go down easy. And, did I mention the cool hench(wo)man who walks on razor-sharp sword stilts? Such a cool visual. You see a bit of her in the trailers, and the movie delivers on that promise.
Since we've discussed it a bit already, I know you're also a bit smitten with the movie, Julie, But, go ahead and tell us why.
JULIE: I am smitten with this movie and a big part of that is because it was just so much darn fun.
You're right to say that it's a throwback to some of the older Bond films, but not in a campy, ironic way. This film is more cartoony than most Bond films, particularly in the final battle and with Samuel L. Jackson's megalomaniac with a lisp. But it also has a lot of heart and high stakes, and yeah, it had me feeling the feels at certain points.
I think a big part of the film's success points squarely at the two leads -- Colin Firth, who has been making ladies swoon for some time now, and Taron Egerton, who will be making ladies swoon for years to come. Both of their characters were fully realized on screen, even if we don't actually know that much about Firth's Galahad. We know enough. We know the history between these two men and we know their bond.
This movie will get lost in the 50 Shades of Grey shuffle next week, probably, unfortunately. In the press, much has been made about the lack of chemistry between that film's two leads -- Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. But the two leads in Kingsman have no such problem. Firth and Egerton are a joy to watch play on screen together, even when they're not wearing bespoke suits, which they should wear every day for the rest of their lives.
If I'm going to point out a flaw in this film, it's the usual one -- the girls are a little underutilized here. Jackson's henchman, played by Sofia Boutella, is one bad ass chick. I have few to no problems with her character. However, I was a little miffed that the Kingsman training class consisted of a bunch of (white) guys and two (white) girls, one of whom is disposed of after the first training exercise. Roxy, Eggsy's friendly rival, is very capable, but also a little too sweet and trusting for a spy. And, though, she has a big job to do at the end of the film, she disappears afterwards and twiddles her thumbs until the battle's over.
And, of course, there's the other woman, who exists pretty much only for the final punchline of the film, which, admittedly, I found rather funny. So maybe I'm a terrible feminist after all.
Basically, what I want for the Kingsman sequel are these things: more bespoke suits, ladies put to better use, and a bit more diversity in the Kingsman squad.
JOHN: I knew the movie would be in a bit of trouble with you when the training class of field agents consisted of mostly guys and a few token, severely outnumbered females. Still, Roxy, as you've pointed out, has a pretty big role in the film and most of those guy recruits are nameless red shirts who are quickly dispatched without spending any screen time on them at all. So, not a huge problem with the movie and one that doesn't really affect its quality. But, more ladies is never a bad thing.
If there is an issue impacting quality, it could be the flippant way it writes off middle-state Americans (by slaughtering them basically) or the evil stepfather-type character that doesn't really feel all that necessary to the bigger picture. I thought Sam Jackson's lisp would prove annoying, and it kind of was for his first few scenes, but then it sort of dawns on you that, well, this is just that kind of movie. Everything is a little exaggerated. People literally get sliced in half, heads literally explode, and the villain hams it up.
On the other hand, the movie does a lot of little things right that I appreciated. Mark Hamill has a small supporting role early in the film, and just that little bit of geek casting engenders a ton of goodwill before the movie even really gets going. Mark Strong, usually the villain in these types of movies, is allowed to play the soft-spoken good guy for a change. The pacing is strong, and the movie really builds a big head of steam in the final 40 minutes. Plus, all those Kingsman suits are really dazzling. I want one. Good thing there's a whole line of Kingsman-inspired suits that you can actually buy. I'm sure those are cheap.
I know we're only in early February, but this has been a brutal 2015 so far, movie-wise. That could play into all these sentiments, but this is the first movie I would actively encourage everyone to see. It's a stealth summer blockbuster released at a time when those are few and far between. And, I hope you're right. I hope we do get a sequel!
JULIE: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Michael Caine is in this movie. Of course he is! You knew he would be.
Also, yes. There's a lot of silliness and a lot of violence (most of which is done in a spectacular, bordering on beautiful fashion -- and this is coming from someone who generally only tolerates movie violence). Really, this movie has a lot of things I should hate, but it adds up to a movie I really enjoyed. Also, I can't say enough about British men in bespoke suits. That trumps a lot of stuff, probably.
And without giving much away, I'd like to point out that SOME world leaders are cool enough that they don't let a little Hollywood ribbing turn into an international incident. That or "Schmobama" just hasn't seen this film yet.
Let's jump to the ratings. On a Downton Abbey scale ranging from the horrible, terrible Sarah Bunting to, naturally, the dowager countess, I give this movie a hard Isobel Crawley.
JOHN: Makes complete sense. On the more standard 5-star scale, I'd give it **** stars, with room to grow upon inevitable repeat viewings.
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