James Bond, Jason Bourne, and now… Eggsy Unwin? At least, that’s the type of lineage that Kingsman: The Secret Service would like viewers to have in mind as they walk in to the theater. But those are some mighty big shoes to fill, and Kingsman may be trying just a little too hard to do so.
As if it wasn’t obvious from the weirdly inserted subtitle, Kingsman is meant to be the first in a long line of films, and as such this film serves as an origin story, giving viewers details into the backstory of both our main character (the previously mentioned “Eggsy,”) and the titular Kingsman group of gentlemen spies as well.
Colin Firth plays a seasoned member of the Kingsman service, who takes a disenfranchised London youth, and the son of a lost friend of Firth’s, under his wing and teaches him about being a spy and being a gentleman. And, you know, being a gentleman spy.
The plot involves a deranged supervillain, played by a weirdly fun Samuel L. Jackson, who wants to destroy the world because “global warming,” and the Kingsmen who must stop him. Needless to say, there’s plenty of action, with slick fight sequences, and cool gadgets abound.
One of the highlights of the film is the action sequences. Kingsman has a great, fun mix of slick, superhero-style cinematography and choreography, but with the bite and blood that an R rating allows. When people get shot, there’s actually blood! It doesn’t shy away from showing us some gore, but it’s also not as obsessed with it as other R-Rated films of this ilk have been (such as Kick-Ass or even Watchmen).
In reality, though, Kingsman is a loving tribute to the Bond films of yore, but with a modern twist and self-awareness to it. This is a film that’s aware of it’s insane premise, and even goes so far as to have several characters mention their love of old spy films or compare themselves to famous movie spies. This is clearly a world where James Bond and Jason Bourne films exist.
Unfortunately, though, Kingsman is perhaps a little too heavy a love note to those old Bond films. There’s plenty of references and little nods to films that came before, but if you haven’t seen them you’ll probably be missing out on that extra layer.
The film also is so enamored with its genre that it refuses to break free of its tropes. Sure, these are more modern takes on those tropes, but the film is still bogged down by the fact that, for example, the main character has to get a girl in the end, even though it makes no sense within the context of the film, and leaves it ending on a weird note.
That’s not to say that there aren’t moments where the film can be a lot of fun, but it’s all a sort of surface level entertainment. This character has a funny voice, or that character says curse words, or that umbrella fires pistol rounds. There’s not as much dissection of the genre as a whole as there could have been, and for that the film is worse off, sometimes feeling less like the next big franchise in the spy genre, and more like another soon-to-be-forgotten copycat.
There’s plenty to love here if if you’re a big fan of the genre, and you also long for the days when super spies used cool gadgets and always got the girl, but honestly if I wanted to watch an old Bond film, I’d watch an old Bond film. Kingsman is fun, but little more than that.