Director Matthew Vaughn has once said that his film, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” is a “postmodern love letter” to James Bond.
Directed and co-written by Vaughn, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is chock-full of fun gadgets, expensive liquor, leggy women, “far-fetched theatrical plots,” and “futuristic colorful megalomaniacs.”
His script — co-written with Jane Goldman (who was also Vaughn’s writing partner during “Stardust,” “Kickass,” “The Debt,” “X-Men: First Class,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) — even says so. “Kingsman’s” hero, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), and villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), have a conversation about their shared love for old-school spy movies.
Loosely based on the 2012 comic series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is the fictional British spy equivalent of the American freemasons. The secret independent organization models themselves after King Arthur (Michael Caine) and the “king’s men” — the modern knights of the round table.
Hart’s secret code name is Galahad. Gary “Eggsy” Unwin’s (Taron Egerton) father was the former Sir Lancelot, who saved Hart’s life during a Middle East mission circa 1997. When the Kingsmen’s latest Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is sliced in half, Hart recruits Eggsy to audition for Lancelot’s position.
Filmed by George Richmond and edited by “Kick-Ass'” Eddie Hamilton and Jon Harris, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a magic show, akin to Louis Leterrier’s 2013 picture, “Now You See Me.” This time, director Vaughn is the magician — orchestrating highly stylized and precise fight scenes that could be from video games such as “Assassin’s Creed” or “Mortal Kombat.”
Egerton’s character performs parkour — jumping off buildings in order to escape bullies. Firth’s cane whips a glass on a poor bloke’s head. Gadget after gadget fires. A grenade that looks like a lighter. An umbrella that doubles as a shield and stun gun. Appendages of razor blades. Cars driving backwards and spinning donuts. And then there are the fireworks — heads exploding in syncopation.
It’s a deadly dance of stunt work, special effects and computer mishaps. But not all of the final picture is an optical illusion. On the first day of filming, actors and crew were accidentally submerged in 20 feet of water.
“Those actors were not acting, they were absolutely terrified,” Vaughn said.
Perhaps we should be too. Underneath the R-rated bloodbath, Vaughn and Goldman’s write a subversive geo-political plot, disguising evilness with altruism. Sure, it’s over-the-top (and it’s hard to remember any didactic moments when everything’s coated with blood), but as Vaughn swings his pendulum back and forth, you have to wonder if all of the masses were sedated by the non-stop action, cheap almost-deaths and other parlor tricks.
“Kingman: The Secret Service” was directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic books.