Kingsman: The Secret Service may not be what you think

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We’re all familiar with the James Bond tropes before the current Daniel Craig outings. The typical plot line goes something like this: There’s an over the top threat to the world and James must save us by infiltrating, seducing and fighting his way across several exotic locations before a final showdown where he barely defeats the villain and is rewarded with copious amounts of sex as credits roll. Be assured that there are plenty of quips and double entendres along the way and that there is a diabolical henchman involved possessing some skill or physical attribute that makes it seem like our hero has no chance of victory.

Kingsman: The Secret Service takes these familiar plot lines and gives it a hard R twist with its violence. It is loosely based on comic titled The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.  It is directed by Matthew Vaughn and stars Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton , Samuel L. Jackson and Sophie Cookson

The film opens in 1997, where we see 4 men interrogating a captured terrorist. The terrorist raises his head to reveal a grenade pin in his mouth. One of the interrogators throws himself on top of the terrorist, thus saving the others. Colin Firth’s character, Harry (codename Galahad), was in charge of that mission. Harry visits his fallen friend’s wife and attempts to give her  a medal in her husband’s memory. There is a phone number on the back of the medal in case she needs a favor, and to say “Oxford’s not brogues” to confirm her identity. She rejects the medal and so Harry give the medal to her son, Gary.

17 years later, another Kingsman operative is attempting the rescue of a kidnapped Professor. The operative is almost successful until he is killed in over the top fashion by Gazelle, a female assassin with bladed prosthetic legs. 

This opening sequence sets up the plot threads for the film. Harry takes the teen, Gary, under his wing and begins his training to become a member of the Kingsmen. The scenes trade off between Gary and other candidate’s training and those that further reveal the villainous intentions of Sam Jackson’s Mr. Valentine.

Kingsman entertains with action set pieces that defy physics and ramp up the budget for blood spatter. One of the highlights of the film is an extended  sequence that takes place in a church. Mr. Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, speaking in only the 2nd most annoying voice this year, has created technology that uses cell phone signals to turn people into murderous hordes. His first test case of the mass murder network he created is in this church. We see an incredibly choreographed sequence of death and destruction in excruciating detail and slow motion that leaves Harry as the sole survivor. Upon emerging from the church, Harry regains his composure and has a fateful encounter with Mr. Valentine. This sets up the plot for the final act of the film.

Kingsman is a fun action movie for its demographic. My problem with the film is that I’m not sure how to take violence that is shown in such gleeful, glorious detail and I’m definitely uncomfortable with the notion of a female character offering sex as a reward for her freedom. (Admittedly a staple of the Roger Moore James Bond years, but at least it was inferred and not graphically described).  

Should I take this as just a modern take on an old formula or should I take it as where we’ve come as a society because we are so desensitized to sex and violence in today’s cinema? I think the answer to this may unfortunately say more about us than it does about the film.

Kingsman: The Secret Service-B