“Turn off your brain” is one of the worst phrases a critic can put into a review. It’s both insulting to the reader and the critics themselves. It’s like saying “Hey, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” Not every film is going to be an existential analysis of the nature of cinema, fine, but that doesn’t allow any films to just write off the media and ask the viewer to not critically think about their film. I’ve been guilty of using the phrase in the past, and am trying my best to avoid it from here on out.
But why bring all of this up? Kingsman: The Secret Service is once again sparking the debate. But instead of being yet another hollow action film devoid of thought, Kingsman is trying its best to change the genre. All the king’s horses and all the Kingsman nearly put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic The Secret Service, Kingman is about an elite organization of gentlemanly British spies. As one of them is killed thanks to Harry Hart’s (Colin Firth), the search for a replacement brings him to Eggsy, the son of his partner and working class troublemaker, When tech billionaire Valentine threatens the world with a chip that send people in a violent rage, it’s up to Eggsy and the Kingsman to put a stop to him.
There are quite a few thematic similarities between this and the last project Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn worked together on, Kick-Ass. A good gauge of how you’ll react to this film is whether or not you enjoyed Kick-Ass’ gross out violent humor. But rather than dissect the more grounded aspects of the superhero genre, Kingsman is rooted in spy films like the Bond series with more noted takes on the Roger Moore era where you’d find a guy parachuting off a mountain during a high speed chase on skis. There’s a nice balance between homage and original ideas (which also critique the narrowmindedness of those films) even if some of those callbacks are far too pointed to be effective. It’s one thing to have a little nod to spy films, it’s another to beat it over our heads.
Kingsman has a lot of fun, but it’s got an egregious tone imbalance. There are some jokes that fall flat thanks to an incoherent tone throughout the first two thirds of the film. It’s like Kingsman was trying to find itself. Everything feels bogged down