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On The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago, Colin Firth joked that he got his role in Kingsman: The Secret Service for being the actor who least looked like he could beat someone up, and that his character aggressively taught others their manners. It’s true that Firth’s character is sort of like a cross between James Bond and Mary Poppins, but that just makes Kingsman all the more fun.

In the movie, Firth plays Harry Hart, a member of the elite spy agency, the Kingsmen, founded by a bunch of wealthy aristocrats whose fortunes when uninherited after World War I. The Kingsmen are meant to keep the world safe from evil and mayhem without the trappings that come with working for a government. When one of their agents is killed on a job, each member is tasked with finding a candidate to replace him. Harry nominates the son of a former trainee who saved his life seventeen years prior. Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a lower-class young man, a bit of a punk, but with a lot of potential. Harry’s boss, Arthur (Michael Caine) has strong opinions about the class of people who should be allowed to train for the service, but Harry still persists in bringing Eggsy into the recruiting pool. Along with nine other young men and women, Eggsy is thrown into intense emotional, physical, and intellectual tests, administered by Merlin (Mark Strong), whose job it is to find out if the candidates have the strength, loyalty, and courage to be Kingsmen. Meanwhile, billionaire genius Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his sidekick Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who has prosthetic feet that are also super-sharp swords, are unfolding a plot to cull the world’s population and kidnapping celebrities and world leaders while they’re at it. As people in power fall into Valentine’s clutches, willingly or not, it’s up to Harry to figure out what he’s up to and how to stop him.

Kingsman is a surprisingly fun movie. It plays with the conventions of the spy genre and is self-aware of its own place therein without being an all-out spoof. The action in the film is intensely choreographed and kind of cheeky, opting to speed-up the action rather than use slow motion most of the time. The effect is kind of manic while still looking stylish. In addition to the clever style of the film, the characters are interesting and worth investing in. At the heart of the film is the development of Eggsy as an individual and in relationship to Harry and the other recruits. The challenges they face are exciting and the relationships they build give the audience something to root for.

As a counter-balance to these more earnest parts of the story, Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of Valentine is funny and menacing. His banter back and forth with Harry helps contribute to the send-up of the spy genre, while his idiosyncrasies, including aversion to violence and love of McDonald’s, add a unique touch. Meanwhile, Gazelle brings levity to Valentine’s silliness, and I think I’ll be having nightmares about her for a while.

Class issues motivate a lot of the plot, which is a frame that perhaps works better in England than in the United States, but can still resonate with an U.S. audience, particularly once the villain gets involved. While Kingsman certainly isn’t revolutionary, I think it does a good job of avoiding pegging all the bad deeds on the wealthy. Instead, the interplay between Harry and Eggsy rests more on style and manners than social class, allowing for some light fish-out-of-water humor that works both ways.

My main complaint with Kingsman is that after a pretty smart two hours, it suddenly veered toward some off-color jokes that just didn’t work. Then it doubled down on them. I felt like I had rolled with a lot for the sake of the ride, cartoonish violence, self-referential dialogue, unbelievable inventions, and all, only to be jarred by a sudden bout of bad writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed Kingsman. I laughed a lot, hid behind my hands a couple of times, and was kept in suspense about how things would turn out. I was also disappointed by some of the rougher jokes that I would have been okay with if they had at least been funny. 4/5 stars.

Kingsman was written by Jane Goldman, based on the comic book The Secret Service, and written by Michael Vaughn. It runs 209 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer