An opening shot complete with Michael Bay-esque explosions, a generic subtitle of ‘Middle East, 1997’, and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing blaring out, and we’re thrown straight into a vivid, slightly surreal spectacle. Skip forward 17 years or so to modern-day London, and another clichéd scene; a boy called Eggsy and his council estate friends get into a bit of bother down the pub with an opposing gang, involving some car theft and resulting in Eggsy being arrested. Kingsman: The Secret Service provides a healthy dose of clichés and excessiveness.
But then in steps Harry (Colin Firth) to bail Eggsy out. A dapper, Savile-Row frequenting, mannered gentleman, Harry also happens to be a secret agent for Kingsman. He recruits Eggsy into a bootcamp-like program intended to train new spies.
Throughout the duration of the film, we’re left confused as to who the intended audience is here. Young Alex Rider readers? At the risk of sounding like Mary Whitehouse, surely not with all the gratuitous violence (minus the Tarantino feel)? Perhaps for James Bond connoisseurs? A gadget scene clearly finds its inspiration from it, but the overall farcical tone brings it down a notch or two. A Nick Frost and Simon Pegg rehashing then? Not quite. In truth, Kingsman tries to play with the conventions of the action movie genre, but it falls flat due to cringe-worthy scriptwriting and a larger-than-life plot.
The groans keep on coming when we meet Samuel L. Jackson’s character. A somewhat comical and excitable villain, his goal is to save the planet by wiping out most of humanity, and starting afresh with selected billionaires, politicians and celebrities. This raises unsettling questions about class, wealth and power, and this is when the film is at its most interesting, and confusing.
But Jackson attempts to enhance some dull lines with his usual dribble of swear words and adds a strange lisp ailment, a real farcical travesty. Not even the big names can save this one, and you find yourself snickering at the film rather than laughing with it, as was probably intended.