Manners Maketh Man

Manners Maketh Man
or
It’s Not That Kind of Movie
or
Brad Pitt Ate My Sandwich

David Clemmer

A preface: something I just learned from reading Wikipedia. Ay kay ay: A Modest LOL

I didn’t know until tonight that Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on a comic book. Well aware though I am of the pulsing groan of a thousand snobs echoing across the nation as I typed that sentence, I care not one bit. However, I read the Wikipedia article about the comic, and learned something cute.

An environmental scientist is kidnapped at the beginning of the comic. The name of this environmental scientist is Mark Hamill, like that guy who played James Jesse / The Trickster in the 1991 TV series of The Flash (and whoa, thanks IMDB, for telling me that he also played the same character in the new Flash show; this shit has levels). Anyway, the comic was obviously making an homage. Well, the movie payed a bigger homage within an homage by having Mark Hamill play the guy who gets kidnapped.

Cute.

Preface over.

Review begun.

This movie (I’m sorry for this. I really am. But, look, there are few ways to say this, and this way seems the pithiest and most effective, so I’m going to use it. By now, you have to know what’s coming. Yeah, you do. Okay, end paren coming up; we’re coming to the rest of the sentence. Ready? Here we go.) kicked ass.

It kicked ass more than previous Matthew Vaughn project Kick Ass, and it did it with a pinstripe suit. The pinstripe not only clothed some of our protagonists, but clothed the film in the very essence of class. With superviolence. Class and superviolence oft do not mix.

As far as the story frame goes, you have your basics. Textbook down-and-out, something-to-prove protagonist is whisked away into a new world where he may flourish if he can only discover the strength and fortitude within himself. Biggest filmic recollection: Men In Black. His mentors are badasses, they put him to grueling tests, and, one way or another, he becomes instrumental in taking down the antagonist. Nothing too groundbreaking there.

Self-aware though the movie may be, Kingsman also lends itself to a few spy movie clichés. Some of them are welcome, others are not. Some breach certain limits, others do not. There’s a balance to be struck when it comes to spoofing the genre to which you’re paying homage, and I think Kingsman ultimately succeeds. But there’s a sprinkling of eye-roll moments. Like the end. With the princess. ‘The end’ means a couple different things here.

The thing that thrust Kick Ass through our hearts (and tracheas, and hamstrings, and lower spinal columns) was the boundless close-up on the violence perpetrated by the protagonists. I’ll take a moment here to endeavor that Matthew Vaughn, like Tarantino, is making a comment on violence rather than just using it to entertain. Superheroes à la Kick Ass and international spies à la Kingsman have killed bad guys for decades, but Vaughn’s movies put the gun wounds and stab wounds and burn wounds and bludgeon wounds right in your face and says, ‘Look. This is what Batman and James Bond were doing, and you know it. You’re welcome.’

The commentary in Kingsman is most exemplified by a scene that takes place at an extreme fundamentalist church. Just go to the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. Nutshell: a bunch of racist, homophobic hatemonger churchgoers are used in an experiment by the villain (Samuel L. Jackson). The hero (Colin Firth) is thrown into the mix. A lot of people die. The sequence by which all the people die is at first as exciting as that first drop on a roller-coaster. It gets more and more brutal, and you go Whoa! Haha, oh my god! a bunch, and it crescendoes and crescendoes…and then it keeps crescendoing and crescendoing and crescendoing to a point where your humble reviewer actually wanted it to stop. Not, like, ‘Okay, filmmakers, I’m over this already,’ but like, ‘Oh my god, hero. Stop. Stop it. No. Make it stop. How will I feel okay after this. My heart. Oh my god. Shit is real now. The realest.’

I won’t even deign to put into this review what happened after this scene, but it was the exclamation point at the end of a really heavy sentence.

And the whole movie was worth this very moment. The character arc that culminated in that sequence was one of the best I’ve seen in the action genre for years.

The cast of Kingsman is solid. Taron Egerton as our young protagonist was a strong enough lead—not the strongest, but he held up. Michael Caine is in this movie. I feel that should carry its own weight. Mark Strong is always a delight. But the crowns definitely go to Colin Firth and Sam Jackson. Colin Firth? Action badass? Glory be, doth mine eyes deceive me? It’s true. He (sorry, I’m doing it again. Just hold on, it’ll be over soon) kicks ass. He really does. Colin Firth. The Bridget Jones guy. And Sam Jackson? Perfect villain. Just perfect. I loved where he was coming from, too; villains who want to save the world but have devilish means of doing so are story gold.

Should you fancy proper usage of tension, intrigue, character and story development, gadgety flair, and unflinching violence all wrapped up in a classic kind of action package, then Kingsman: The Secret Service is bespoke for you.

Ratings:
12 / 13 electrocuting signet rings
4.5 / 5 lithped etheth from Thamuel L. Jackthon
1 / 1 best use of the ‘Freebird’ guitar solo