Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Kingsman: The Secret Service"

The trailers for this movie made me raise my eyebrows at the action sequences and chuckle at the pasty British kid dressed like a street thug. I figured it could go either way as far as quality, especially with a runtime of 2 hours. Action movies these days as a rule are quite poorly made; the reasons for this are excellently outlined in the following video.

I'll grade Kingsman based on the video's rubric:

1. The story. The trailers sum up the plot simplistically: a young British man is recruited to a spy organization called Kingsman, takes part in their Hunger Games-esque training program, and saves the world from evil with James Bond gadgets. Plot elements include vengeance, terrorism, father/son legacy, classism, and a close relationship with a mentor. These are all cliches, but are presented in a highly entertaining, original fashion. 4.5 out of 5.

2. The hero. Gary (Taron Egerton), nicknamed Eggsy for reasons nobody bothers to explain, is lower class, directionless, and has a penchant for Vanilla Ice-style hip-hop attire. He's been in minor trouble with the police. His father was a Kingsman who gave his life for queen and country. His mother has since remarried to an abusive drunk. Once in Kingsman training, he has a difficult time fitting in with his fellow recruits, who were all plucked from schools like Oxford. Eggsy eventually earns their trust, becoming an unofficial leader. 4 out of 5.

3. The villain. Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is a billionaire record mogul with a severe lisp. He's also a rabid environmentalist. He's been funding global warming research and believes that the only way to mitigate the damage being done to the planet is via mass genocide. His second-in-command Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) is a woman with prosthetic legs that are really swords. Valentine's public persona is so charming and generous that nobody has a clue he's up to anything sinister; that ability to deceive the public and influence important political figures is the scariest part of this character. 5 out of 5.

4. The stunts. The physical feats performed by the spies are either borderline unbelievable or downright impossible. In the context of the movie, you probably won't question any of them. An excellent job was done by those who actually performed the stunts. 3.5 out of 5.

5. The camerawork. The intense action sequences are filmed from different viewpoints, which keeps everything fresh. There's no dreaded "shaky cam" effects that could make certain audience members nauseous. 3.5 out of 5.

6. The vulnerability of the hero. Eggsy is just an ordinary London street kid. We learn that he had been in training for the British military, but dropped out because his mother was afraid that he would get killed in action. Before getting picked up by the Kingsman, he was unemployed. Training at the agency's country mansion and shopping for a suit gave Eggsy a taste of the finer things in life; their mock missions showed he had great potential. Everyone at the academy is competing for a single vacancy; if Eggsy fails, he will be back where he was: in the projects with nothing. His mother gets caught in the crosshairs of Valentine's master plan. If Eggsy isn't successful on the big mission, he will lose the most important person in his life. The stakes don't get higher than that. He isn't invincible to physical damage or to mistakes. 4.5 out of 5.

All these elements combine to make Kingsman one of the most original action movies to come along in recent years, although it should be noted there is source material involved. The movie is based on a comic book of the same title, which I had never previously heard of. I'm not a fan of comic book movie genre; the only ones I have been able to watch more than once were the original Iron Man and The Avengers. I can now add Kingsman to that list of exceptions. Catch it while it's still in theaters.

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