I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Kingsman: The Secret Service

tn_kingsmanWell, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I did, you guys: I enjoyed KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. Although I have this idea of director Matthew Vaughn as an overhyped Friend of the Internet, when I look at his filmography it’s really only KICK-ASS that I have a beef with. But since KINGSMAN is the director and writers of KICK-ASS adapting from another comic from the same guy that did KICK-ASS you can see why it would be a concern.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young British man of drinking age. His dad died in Iraq when he was a kid, his mom has an abusive asshole boyfriend, he hangs out at the pub with his friends, gets in fights, doesn’t have a job. This could be the beginning of another GREEN STREET sequel, but when he gets busted for stealing some asshole’s car it’s not a soccer fan club that helps him out, it’s a stranger who claims to be a friend of his dad.

Little did Eggsy know that his father was in a secret society of highly skilled, well-financed super-spies working independently of any government. This guy who helps him, code named Galahad (Colin Firth, THE KING’S PEACH), says he owes Eggsy’s dad for saving his life. Galahad notices Eggsy’s squandered potential (he quit the Marines as well as an Olympics-bound gymnastics career) and decides to recruit him to try out for their organization. But it’s a tough audition. It’s kinda like trying out for the SEALs but only one person gets to join.

Right away he doesn’t fit in. He’s competing against guys from rich families with names like “Digby.” They all wear nice suits and talk about their days at Oxford and shit, he comes in dressed kinda like Ali G. They all seem to know what’s going on and what to expect, he has no clue what the fuck is up. He’s Harry Potter.

mp_kingsmanOf course this is a play on James Bond and The Avengers (British tv show) and stuff. There is some meta-dialogue (not too bad) indicating that the filmatists are trying to bring back the fun, goofy spy shit like the old days. So they have gadgets and an underground lair and they don’t pretend to be gritty or especially realistic. There’s an elitist supergenius madman (Samuel L. Jackson) with a disability (if a lisp counts as a disability). His sinister plan involves implants, SIM cards, satellites and thinning the population.

The Kingsman group has a King Arthur theme for their code names, but mostly they’re just about proper Britishness. Their front is a tailor shop and when they graduate they get bulletproof “bespoke” suits and weapons hidden inside umbrellas and pens and stuff. So Eggsy gets kind of a makeover, but I like how he’s specifically told that he can still talk like himself and be a gentleman. He looks slick but he doesn’t have to hide his lower class background.

During training each recruit has to pick a puppy to take care of. Eggsy thinks he’s picking one that’s gonna grow up into a vicious bulldog, because he doesn’t know what a pug is. So he has some things to learn. But he does know how to do flips and stuff already, that helps.

Those of you who don’t like computers or technology to be used in your action scenes will throw up constantly throughout the movie. There’s not a fight choreographer credited, but the stunt coordinator/second unit director Bradley James Allan also did second unit for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and THE WORLD’S END, and there’s definitely a similarity in style there, so I’m gonna give him the credit. There are a number of extremely stylized and cartoonish action sequences that I think are well done. To be honest I don’t really understand how they were even accomplished, but there is definitely alot of speeding up of footage and digitally stitching things together to seem like they were done in one shot. Also there are clearly plenty of real stunts, with Firth having to learn a bunch of moves and Egerton doing an underwater scene kinda like the one in ALIEN RESURRECTION.

Firth battles his way through a bar of hooligans or the entire congregation of a racist church performing complex choreography, with every movement he makes leading to a different blow. He throws things with the hook of his umbrella, hooks people’s arms and legs, flips and tosses them, sometimes going the extra mile to, for example, throw them against something so that we see their spine crush and bend.

Also Jackson’s character Valentine has a Bond-style henchwoman named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who is an acrobatic martial artist with metal prosthetic legs sharp enough to bisect a human. We never find out much about her and in my opinion what she’s doing is wrong but also I think I have a bit of a crush on her. Maybe I could change her.

There is a showstopper of a scene that for me makes the movie. I had heard something about it but I didn’t really know the context. Skip two paragraphs if you don’t want to know. It’s the scene where Galahad goes to investigate a hate-spewing church linked to Valentine’s operation, and while he’s there Valentine activates his system that causes everyone in the church to turn violent and uninhibited. And then there is a long, seemingly uninterrupted scene of this highly skilled warrior in a nice suit fighting through this crowd until every single one of them is dead. It’s kind of a great scene because it really is having the cake and eating the cake also. For sure it’s a gleeful exploitation of over-the-top violence, but when it’s all over – to me anyway – Galahad seems tainted. We know that he didn’t do it willingly, he was not in control – which brings up the whole Rambo issue that if you’re trained to kill you’re gonna end up killing – but still, having this much blood on his hands, you have to question if he can really still be the hero. Or at least I did.

And then SPOILER all the sudden he gets killed. I know it’s pretty standard Ben Kenobi shit for the mentor to die off and the student has to take charge, but I was put off balance by the extremeness of him turning into a mass murderer in the previous scene. And I liked this character. It caught me off guard.

I guess I have to mention the most controversial part, since it seems to be the only aspect anyone wants to talk about. At the end there’s a joke where a princess (Hanna Alström), who has been imprisoned by the bad guys, offers Eggsy butt sex as a reward for rescuing her and saving the world. I mean, I don’t know how to get mad on this one. On one hand obviously it’s a ridiculous porno-esque male fantasy, presented bluntly to parody the innuendo of a James Bond movie. On the other hand it’s very clearly consensual and enthusiastic. Aren’t we supposed to be against “slut-shaming” now, or does that not apply when it’s fiction?

(Of course Vaughn didn’t help by referring to “bloody feminists” when commenting on the controversy.)

It’s definitely a male-oriented movie in the same way that that Bond movies are. But it’s worth noting that one of the crucial supporting characters, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), holds her own while trying out for Kingsman without having to be a sex object or love interest. (I guess she’s Hermione.) She doesn’t just match Eggsy in the testing, she beats him. And although she does it through cold-heartedness, being willing to do something horrible that he couldn’t, the movie doesn’t slander her for this. She’s the actual new Kingsman, he just ends up helping by default. In the climax, admittedly, she doesn’t get to do all the cool fighting. But she does get the more spectacular and harrowing job of floating into the upper atmosphere on a balloon, firing a missile at a satellite and then plummeting back to earth. The movie respects her.

KINGSMAN works pretty well on a level that’s kind of rare: purposely ridiculous, but serious. Not a comedy. I would count it as an actual spy/action movie, though obviously a cartoonish digital age version of the form. I thought it was a pretty fun time.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2015 at 7:28 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

77 Responses to “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

  1. Great review, Vern.

    I trust that you are looking forward to “SPECTRE” (November) as much as I am!

    Tom

  2. That church fight is amazing. I never really got the whole Colin Forth thing, but if he can pull off that choreography and show the character’s arc of going from robotic determination to crazed bloodlust to contained desperation to insany shock and regret, well, shit, that’s a movie star right there. Definitely one of my favorite scenes of the year. I hope they ditch this Eggsy geezer and just make a prequel about Galahad. Or bring him back from the dead with lasers or something.

    The butt sex joke is just unfunny, not offensive.

  3. Gosh, that church scene is one of the most mean-spirited things I’ve seen in a mainstream film. I am both tickled and disturbed by the fact that it uses a hated subculture (Westboro-esque fundies) to cushion the blow of watching our hero rampage. Substitute any other group for the churchgoers and the scene becomes unwatcbably dark…

  4. I actually used to know the woman who he shoots in the face right at the beginning, so it was doubly-disturbing for me, but the church scene wasn’t established well enough in my opinion – it makes the congregation look like total racist, homophobic gro tesques, seemingly setting up this kind of bloodthirsty retribution. I’d somehow missed/forgotten that Colin Firth was being manipulated (and I wasn’t the only one) – and it was hard to know exactly how we were meant to respond, even after the penny dropped. The problem is there’s less pathos for the fact that Colin Firth has betrayed his own nature, because the darkest part of us feels like they had it coming.

  5. I dug this movie, and enjoyed this write up for sure.

    Definitely an interesting year for spy movies, what with this film and Spy coming out (and both being good) and the upcoming Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Man From UNCLE and Spectre. Law of averages says a couple of these have to stink, right? The Man from UNCLE is an obvious choice for likely stinker, but what about the others? Can we really have this many awesome spy-centric movies? And it looks like American Ultra might have some government-weapon superspy Jason Bourne type of shit in there, as well. What’s going on this? Is this a reaction to Snowden and our new mass surveillance state? Does that shit even matter when these movies are made? Why does this comment have so many questions?

  6. I thought this movie was a total blast. The choice of Freebird for the church scene was brilliant.

  7. Also Jackson’s character Valentine has a Bond-style henchwoman named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who is an acrobatic martial artist with metal prosthetic legs sharp enough to bisect a human. We never find out much about her and in my opinion what she’s doing is wrong but also I think I have a bit of a crush on her. Maybe I could change her.

    No kidding. Got dammm.

  8. I thought this was fun and I enjoyed it more then I expected. I really liked that Sam Jackson is essentially playing Russell Simmons as a bond villain.

  9. Liked the movie well enough, but I’m on renfield’s page about the church scene. Stacking the deck with loathsome victims and a tampered-with Galahad feels like pre-emptive window dressing to a scene that gets off on massacre. There’s such glee to it, so much centerpiece showboating, and little surprise or soul … it’s a wallow in violence where you’re not feeling for the people in the scene but are instead invited to lick your chops, like extreme carnage in and of itself (yeah, fictional, and yeah, well-choreographed) is just delightful.

  10. I think fictional, well-choreographed carnage IS just delightful. Doesn’t everybody?

  11. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Personally speaking, I was more offended by “Gourmet MacDonalds” than the stupid sex joke at the end (although I definitely don’t think it should’ve been in there). This is how you don’t do product placement in movies. That aside, I thought this was a great time at the movies.

    With all apologies to Charlize Theron (AKA Furiosa), the “badass performance of the year so far” award definitely goes to Colin Firth. (I did not expect to be typing those words unironically, ever.)

    How come nobody’s mentioned the heads-up bit at the end? If anything could’ve happened to make me appreciate this movie even more than I did, this was definitely it.

    I thought the church scene was awesome, but it’s as much for the setup as for the action and the payoff. In a weird way it reminded me of WAY OF THE DRAGON in that respect. Remember the fight in the alley (AKA one of the greatest fight scenes of all time)? The way that it’s set up with the thugs invading the restaurant, then moves outside, slowly building up in stages to the climax where Lee humiliates the two thugs with the “big dragon little dragon” thing? Well, the church scene apparently took notes from that. The film takes its time to establish the churchgoers as utter scumbags, then kicks things off (after an awesome quote from Firth when he speaks to the churchgoer), leading to a brilliant action scene that’s both exhilerating and emotional – because, no matter how awful these people are, Firth’s just been forced, against his will, to betray every principle he stands for. As Vern says, he’s “tainted”. Then finally there’s the scene immediately afterwards… and if they were going to have that happen, this is how it should’ve gone down.

    I’d definitely recommend this one to fans of badass cinema, or just unexpectedly badass performances from unlikely actors.

  12. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    And yes, I did just compare a scene starring Colin Firth to one of the most iconic Bruce Lee fight scenes, and probably one of the most iconic movie fights, ever. What you gonna do about it, punk?

    Majestyk – well I prefer it to badly-choreographed carnage!

  13. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Chris – when I was a child (which was thirty years ago now) they were still playing TV shows like THE AVENGERS and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E and THE PERSUADERS and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Most of them I remember being pretty much either light-hearted farce or more serious but with a definite “sixties” air to them, with things like PREY and LA FEMME NIKITA (there was actually a pretty good TV show based on the film – if you don’t remember it, don’t worry, neither I expect does anybody else) coming later and taking a much more serious tone. I loved the more light-hearted spy TV series as a child, but I grew to prefer the more serious ones. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a sillier example like KINGSMEN, although I think that’s a long way away from the likes of THE AVENGERS and THE PERSUADERS.

    As for the film of MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E – I don’t know who on earth they’re looking to attract. THE SWEENEY movie did pretty well over here, making “six million dollars foreign” according to the only record I can find (why the fuck do all of these things have to be in American? It’s a UK film, use real money!) which I would think would be around 4.5 million pounds. It cost two million to make, so… doubled its money, at least? It seems to me like a modern update of a sixties / seventies spy-themed TV series would be a horrible idea that wouldn’t appeal to anybody. But if that were true, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (the movie) would be crap… and it’s not, it’s one of my favorite films.

    So I’m not saying THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E can’t be good, or won’t be good, but I’m not going to try and anticipate it either. I’ll try not to be spoiled and look at the reviews when it comes out.

  14. Unanimous praise all across the board. Guess I have to check this out.

  15. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Goddamit, somebody else post! I feel like I’m talking to myself here…

    …Ok, so I said in my comments elsewhere that there was one other thing that really bothered me about this film. It’s the “bullies” characters – and there are so, so many of them, from the thugs in his home town to the upper-class twits auditioning for the “Kingsman” role. The characters who are only there to make Eggsy’s life hell. None of them seems to have any depth, they’re just obnoxious obstacles. I could really have done without these guys. They drag the movie down. Not to the point where I don’t like it – I still really like the movie – but these guys bothered me a lot.

  16. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Oh thanks Broddie. I was worried that everybody had disappeared or something the moment I started commenting (this is a thing that occasionally happens in real life but is a good deal less common on the Interwebs.)

  17. My mother is a huge fan of SOLO FOR U.N.C.L.E. (Basically the only reason why she started watching NCIS was that David McCallum is in it.), so if she ends up liking the movie, we all know that they did something right. (And yes, she is VERY happy, that Tom Cruise dropped out of it.)

    Also re: LA FEMME NIKITA, I recently re-watched THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and suddenly remembered the time when it seemed like Peta Wilson could actually become a real star, instead of a popculture footnote. Too bad.

  18. Yeah, shame on the slut-shamers. Self-defeating arseholes.

  19. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Eh? What happened to Peta Wilson? I know she was Nikita in the TV series, obviously, but what happened to her after that?

  20. The Original Paul

    June 22nd, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I should clarify that… I always assumed she was just one of the multitude of young TV actresses who’d had one or two film roles and then just faded out of sight. I didn’t know of anything in particular that had caused this to happen, apart from simple bad luck.

  21. According to IMDB, she is still acting, but not in anything that I’ve ever heard of after LXG (and a small role that I can’t even remember in SUPERMAN RETURNS). I guess Katee Sackhoff stole her career. Too bad.

  22. She was the one that was giving the presentation of the space airplane in SUPERMAN RETURNS and ended up with her glasses all askew and hair disheveled after Superman rescued them.

  23. Mr. Majestyk – Fictional and well-choreographed violence is awesome when there’s some larger purpose than “let’s see how many clever ways we can find to slaughter people.” The church scene is there narratively, I guess, to show how horrifying SLJ’s plan is. The scene isn’t played for horror though, it’s played for giddy kicks. I don’t even think it’s exciting – I wasn’t worried for Galahad, I wasn’t concerned for the obvious targets, it’s just a string of mutilations that pretty quickly made me ask “What’s so fantastic about a no-risk, no-feeling, explicit bloodbath?” De-desensitization is happening, brotha. Sigh.

  24. Narrative has almost nothing to do with my enjoyment of this particular fight. I just love the dance of it. The inventiveness in the way every little move dictates what the next move will be. The verve in shooting it as one continuous take. Just the poetry of it. I guess if you’re not impressed by the sheer technical brio of the sequence, there’s not much else there. Some action scenes work because you’re invested in the outcome, but this is the other kind. The Burly Brawl kind. Most people hate that one, too, because it doesn’t advance the story enough. Not me. I love a good story, but I love a good showstopper more.

  25. I enjoyed the movie, but just like with Kick-Ass all the changes they made to the original comic story just made it weaker. In the original comic the crowd that goes nuts and murders each other are a huge wedding party on a beach. It was a much more disturbing scene that happens earlier in the story so the stakes seem much higher earlier on. But the movies decision to make the scene more personal by involving Colin in a hughly entertaining action scene means that the group has to be made up of scum-bags who deserve to die, so that Colin does not come off as a complete villian. Frankly, I would have still enjoyed it if Colin had been at a wedding party, but that’s just my sickness.

    There are several others decisions I could talk about, but since this is the only one really being discussed in the thread I’ll leave it at that.

  26. It never occurred to me to think the McDonald’s gag was product placement. If anything I figured it was a PULP FICTION reference.

    Infiltrating a hidden fortress with white-uniformed henchmen and a princess that needs rescuing, and then having to escape in your captured aircraft, reminded me of another movie to which Mr. Jackson is indirectly connected.

  27. I didn’t think of it as product placement either, though that’s obviously what it is. From an authorial viewpoint, I saw it as a British filmmaker taking a broad, obvious dig at American crudity. From a character viewpoint, I saw it as Jackson’s character, a self-made man with a chip on his shoulder about it, testing Firth’s character to see if he was a typical silver spoon snob. Sort of like when Vern would weed out the superficial readers with his old, purposely shoddy WordPress sight. So it was a bit dicey at first but the scene kind of worked for me.

  28. Good Burly Brawl comparison; thought I was pretty much alone in liking that, precisely cause of the brio and brio alone. The church scene’s graphic nature is what tipped the scales over here. Made it stop being fun. Dan S’s wedding party probably wouldn’t have been fun either, but there would have been something besides expertly crafted nihilism. (And full agreement on the princess joke, btw.)

  29. Come on Vern, we all know the reason you avoided this one for so long was because of your well-documented Anglophobia. And did you angrily hurl fistfuls of “Yes We Can” memorabilia at the screen when a certain head exploded?

    After I saw the movie I was completely baffled by the outrage over the completely benign, if unfunny, buttsex gag. I was steeling myself for something truly offensive and tasteless. I had to check and make sure I hadn’t seen a version that was censored or reshot or something. And I’m a huge liberal pussy and proud SJW, so if there was something to be offended over I would have found it.

    I think the church scene was aces. I don’t really mind that they softened the blow by stacking the deck with horrific bigots. It’s a great piece of action craftsmanship, it says something about Firth’s character that he’s so horrified by his actions (even though we, or at least I, enjoyed it) and it does a good job of establishing the stakes for the climax when the doomsday device is unleashed on some “real” people.

    The McDonalds scene worked for me as a character moment for Jackson, even thought it’s clearly product placement as well. I don’t think they were just going for an overplayed “look how obvious we are being with our product placement” gag.

  30. Loved Kingsman and I’m not sure why you thought he was over-hyped by the internet Vern. For my tastes, he hasn’t made a bad movie yet. His first movie Layer Cake is a pretty damn good British gangster movie( and also the reason Daniel Craig is our current James Bond). Stardust I liked a lot even though it’s not the type of movie I would seek out normally. Kick-Ass is great and I don’t even understand your distaste for it. X-Men First Class is the second best X-Men movie in the series to X2 in my opinion. I like the fact that Vaughn wants to make hard R rated movies like Kingsman and Kick Ass but can switch it up for the PG-13 crowd and not miss a beat. His main concern seems to be making an entertaining movie first and foremost and not about achieving a certain rating to make more money. I’ll be looking forward to whatever movies he has to offer in the future.

  31. I agree with Majestyk that the beauty of the church scene is the ballet of it, rather than it’s larger purpose. I don’t agree that it was totally without dramatic angst, though. I didn’t have any real concern that Firth’s character wasn’t going to survive the fighting, but we didn’t know what effect the mind-fuck machine was going to have on him. Was it only temporary? Was he going to be a rampaging monster until someone put him down? Was his heart going to eventually explode from all the adrenaline racing through his system?

  32. The whole church slaughter really was trying to have your cake and eat it too. The film makers chose the one group of innocent people they could slaughter and still have the audience root for him. I think it would have been more interesting if he hadn’t died and had to come to terms with what he’d done. (Not that this was that type of movie).

    And, like others have already said, the ending wasn’t offensive, it was just weird. I get that it was supposed to be a riff onhow the Bond movies would end, taking innuendo and making it explicit, but I just wasn’t expecting the camera to fly into her butt crack.

  33. Oh yeah, I forgot about the exploding heads scene. I wish the CG was better, but the world leaders’ heads exploding as a fireworks show was very funny.

  34. Fight choreography is pure cinema. For me narrative usually play second fiddle when I watch ,say a kung fu movie. The sheer enjoyment of watching that amazing shit. Like Majestyk says; “the poetry of it”watching the wrong movie for you.

    By the way, this movie is awesome. It´s also sad that people find it offensive. Unfunny, I can understand. Everyone has different tastes in humour. But offensive? Come on.

  35. Man, i should have checked the text before I posted it. That´s what happens when you neglect to completely edit out sentences

  36. The Original Paul

    June 23rd, 2015 at 2:47 am

    No, the Burly Brawl is a really, really bad comparison to the church scene. Three reasons:

    1) The church scene has setup, action and payoff, and all three of them work perfectly. I will grant you that the Burly Brawl has setup (that conversation between Neo and the Smiths – it’s not particularly good setup, but it’s there) but there is zero engaging action and zero payoff (and no, that stupid gag at the end where the Smiths just walks off, the one where I thought “I just wasted what feels like about three hours of my life for this shit?”, does not count. Fuck you!)

    2) The church scene has been set up so that I actually care about what’s happening. Those who have pointed out that the people Firth are fighting are such assholes that you’re “forced” to root for Firth have missed the point completely. It’s not the people in the church that we’re supposed to care about, it’s the fact that Galahad has just been forced to basically betray everything he’s been teaching Eggsy the entire time. He’s abandoned all of his principles and is acting like a savage. You know throughout the fight that if he survives it, he’s going to be forced to accept what’s just happened; and when he does… man. That’s called emotional payoff, guys. How the heck is this supposed to be replicated in the Big Brawl? Even nostalgia from the first MATRIX movie could not get me to give a shit about anything in RELOADED, especially this part of it.

    3) Most importantly, I believe when I’m watching the Church scene that this is Galahad involved in the action. I believe what’s in front of my eyes. In the Burly Brawl you might as well have drawn a lot of stick-figures in a flip-book. I don’t believe anything I’m seeing. It’s like seeing somebody else play a bad videogame. At no point did I ever think that what I was watching was anything but animated CGI. You might as well put up a film of Neo and Smith puppets on strings being slowly raised and lowered repeatedly. It would’ve had exactly the same effect, which is to say no effect whatsoever.

    I get why you might not like the church scene, which is fine. But let’s not go comparing it to the CGI shitfest that is the Burly Brawl, ok? That comparison makes Paul sad.

    I’m not convinced by the MacDonalds “satire of product placement” argument either. If they wanted to satirise product placement, they’d have used a product that didn’t actually exist. This reminds me of two things:

    – Vern’s review of WEDDING CRASHERS when he points out that if you say something’s a cliche, and then do it, it’s still a goddamn cliche. (I think I’ve got the gist of that quote at least.) Well, if you try to make fun of product placement, and then you put product placement into your movie, it’s still product placement. Leading onto:

    – That scene in MINORITY REPORT where they show what a world of “targeted advertising” would be like – by using real ads from real companies. So effectively the advertising is absolutely real, and aimed at the audience. Again, same thing here.

  37. But, Paul. The Burly Brawl seem to have an emotional payoff after all. Because of how it pisses you off

  38. The church scene is not a fight scene.

    It’s a computer graphics demonstration.

    This is a fight scene:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkEEGidt9GY

  39. On the other hand it’s very clearly consensual and enthusiastic. Aren’t we supposed to be against “slut-shaming” now, or does that not apply when it’s fiction?

    I see both sides of the controversy, certainly — and they clearly played it up to be consensual.

    I guess it’s just in this day and age when we know women are pretty much forced to pretend they’re okay with a lot of bullshit, to make a joke about requiring a kiss to be let out of a prison cell is pretty demeaning, and then to follow into her in to the prison cell, standing between her and the door, to where her captors have obviously set up a weird sexy room for her to rot in? That’s just a bit much in my opinion… when there’s a significant, and blatant, dichotomy between what the sexualized, fantasy woman does, and what a real person would do, it’s disheartening. Ruined the spirit of the movie for me.

    But as I said, I can see why to some folks it’s just a dumb joke.

    Maybe if it had actually been funny?

  40. Isn’t the point of the Burly Brawl, apart from demonstrating Smith as virus and to foreshadow the ending, to show that Neo and Smith would always fight each other to a standstill, that there could be no winner that way?

  41. 4o comments and no one has even mentioned the character this movie is celebrating, Michael Caine’s signature role; Harry Palmer! Well, now I have so we can all sleep tonight.

  42. Ugh. Sorry, everybody. I knew it was a mistake to bring up the Burly Brawl with Paul in earshot.

  43. I definitely agree with everyone praising the Church scene. I enjoyed it, and the movie as a whole, but also generally agree with complaints about things like the ending joke. It feels like a Poe’s Law sort of situation where it’s hard to tell if it’s parody or genuine.

    And thank you Vern for the term “Friend of the Internet” it describes so many things I dislike.

  44. Some thoughts on the three bits that seem to be generating the most craic –

    Full agreement with Mr Majestyk’s points on the church scene. Setting the churchgoers up as horrible bastards was, I felt, the right thing to do for the overall tone of the film – we get the emotional payoff of Colin Firth’s reaction to what he has done, and also the pure cathartic joy of seeing what it would look like if the Westboro arseholes got a full dose of karma.

    The ‘thank you for such a…happy meal’ line got a big laugh in the cinema when I watched it; it felt like people were laughing at McDonalds, and the concept of two grown men eating it for a dinner party, so if it was product placement not sure if it was successful or not.

    The bum sex offer was less well received (ahem), with just a few chuckles. Oddly, the lass I watched it with, who is a very pro-active feminist, was one of the chucklers. As a less pro-active (i.e. Lazy) believer in feminism i thought it was tasteless, but assumed it was an exaggeration if the type.of thing that happened at the end of the Roger Moore Bond movies (which one was it where Bond wont speak to his boss because “he’s attempting re-entry”?).

  45. @Tango Urilla

    I like the idea of it being product placement while also having them make fun of McDonalds. Shows like Community and 30 Rock did the same thing with their sponsors.

    As for the last joke, I had a similar experience in that a friend of mine who very strongly identifies with feminism thought that part was hilarious and enjoyed the movie. It’s kind of interesting though because it really shows the complexity of those issues, feminism can mean a lot of different things to people.

  46. I personally let out a loud “HA!” for the butt joke. It was mostly out of surprise and the look on his face. I don’t think it’s that good of a joke, other than a jab at the stupid innuendo in the Bond movies, but I’m not offended by it either. I can see how other people would be, though, and don’t begrudge them their offense. What does offend me is the attitude of, “Come on, sweetheart, it was just a joke.”

  47. @evan

    Funnily enough me and my buddy just watched that community with the character ‘subway’ and i see what you mean, it’s like they thought “if we have to have product placement, lets do it on our terms”. Maybe the makers of kingsman thought the same.

  48. Yeah a few people have it wrong and a few people have it right and I’d like to join the chorus of the latter — The church scene is great for technical, visually dazzling reasons and for narratively significant reasons.

    It is definitely not pointless; it is not spectacle for the sake of spectacle.

    It’s great that it’s a weird mystery as to why Firth is there
    (He’s doing intel gathering, always dangerous & murky at ground level in the field.)
    and why Sam Jackson is peeping in
    (watching his contained sample of human guinea pigs).

    We the audience don’t know at this point what the big plan is or what the big mcmuffin is, so it all works. Edge of my seat earned that extra gravitational push while I tried to figure out what was what, and my lack of knowledge tracked with Firth’s lack of knowledge, as well as his anxious sense of fear and not knowing why or whether he should be there (and his sense of out-of-placeness as a well-dressed gent amidst a bunch of mouth-breathing rednecks).

    When he hears all this hate speech, I want him to start kicking ass, but I know from earlier in the movie that “manners maketh man” so that seems unlikely, but then the nasty congregation member confronts him and it looks like grace & gentlemanship will prevail but then SURPRISE it doesn’t and it’s like his/our id takes over and he says something brutally straightforward and at this point I’m wondering if I’m seeing a dream-hallucination sequence and that sensation does not subside when he starts killing motherfuckers and then its carnage ownage carnage ownage carnage unbroken photography beautiful ugly beautiful ugly glorious hideous glorious hideous stab shoot stab shoot and I finally realize what’s what with the brainwaves and the aggression and the soundtrack to this bloodfest leaves me shaking my head but with a semi-reluctant smile nonetheless and when Firth exits the massacre site I realize that both he and I (and all the audience) (and the sick filmatists who made/approved this shit) have a lot of reconciling to do and when he gets Bin Ladened (shot in the face) it’s like a big ‘fuck you’ and a big ‘yeah that was fucked up and this was the right way to end that fucked upness’ at the same time.

  49. Since THE joke is written by a woman who really knows her movies, I think it’s more a riff on the reputation Sweden got in the 60’s as a liberal, hippyish land of blonde nudists. In addition to being a modern middle finger to all those lame British sex jokes from the old spy movies. The Swedish prime minister is played by a Norwegian actor, by the way.

  50. Was no one else just blown away by the fact that it’s Colin Firth at the centre of that scene? Before this, his biggest fight scene was, arguably, slapping Hugh Grant into a fountain in BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY to the music of The Darkness. This is a guy in his 50s who won an Oscar for doing battle with a speech impediment (and wouldn’t SLJ’s issues have been better resolved by a few sessions with Geoffrey Rush’s speech therapist?).

    Of course, Firth was kinda scarey in WHERE THE TRUTH LIES playing a fictionalised Dean Martin-type entertainer, and there is a real Matt Helm vibe in KINGSMAN – the insufficiently-controversial-to-get-an-earlier-mention-here Gazelle legs/rear posters even reference THE SILENCERS poster. It always felt like Roger Moore’s Bond owed a lot to Dino.

  51. Borg9: As mentioned above, I didn’t have much experience with Firth prior to this movie. The only thing I really knew about him was that all the English major chicks I knew–and I knew a lot–had a serious case of the steaming pantaloons for the guy for reasons I could not understand. Nothing against him, but he just doesn’t make the kind of movies I watch. But I think I get it now. It wasn’t just the badassery of the fight itself that won me over to his side, it was that he managed to stay completely in character for the whole ordeal, which is pretty fucking impressive for a guy who’s never done anything remotely like this before. Compare it to the later Eggsy fights, which are well done, but fairly generic. The character does not really come through in the midst of all the choreography. Firth was somehow emoting through all that carnage, despite playing someone whose emotions were highly controlled by decades of training and also currently being manipulated by outside forces. Just a truly impressive piece of action acting, especially for a first-timer. I want his TAKEN ripoff and I want it now.

  52. Hey, if you wanna see Firth in a film that might be more up your ally, check out his 1988 psycho-thriller APARTMENT ZERO. A patient, atmospheric and deeply creepy little movie.

  53. I do like how good natured Firth is about his reputation. He once said if he were to change careers tomorrow to become an astronaut and became the first man to Mars the headline would read, “Mr. Darcy lands on Mars.”

  54. Just to clarify, when I accused the church brawl of mean spiritedness, I did not mean it in a pejorative sense. I love this sort of blackhearted shit.

  55. Thanks. I’ve also been reminded that Firth’s breakout performance was in the BBC’s Tumbledown in which he’s shot in the head by an Argentine sniper. So a bit tougher than Hugh Grant.

    I’m with you Mr Majestyk, but after all that Darcying there I took a real double take along the lines of “Whoa, did Colin Firth just shoot that woman in the face!?”

  56. For the record, to my knowledge the Swedish Prime Minister does not fly in a Yellow/blue Air Force One. But it was really funny in the movie. As a Swede I also enjoyed the line which the Minister says he does not care for the Princess since he is a republican. Over here republicans stands for an opposition against the monarchy as an institution, not a bunch of tea party nut jobs.

  57. Shoot, maybe not the current prime minister, but I bet the last one did.

  58. Nope. One asshole replaced by another. It´s the Circle of Politics

  59. The Original Paul

    June 27th, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Majestyk – sorry. You know I couldn’t let that one pass.

    Whether you like or dislike the burly brawl though, I cannot for the life of me see how anybody can compare it to the church shootout. They’re completely different scenes in every possible way – form, function, style, action directing, effect on story, effect on character, etc.

    I think Mouth said it best, by the way. Really well put.

    Shoot – yep, Republican is anti-monarchy over here as well (in the UK).

  60. The Original Paul

    June 27th, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Oh, and BR – I’d agree with you if there wasn’t so much damn shakycam. Look, man, I want to agree with you on this one. I’ve said, in this very comments section, that THE RAID 2 would be the greatest martial arts movie ever if only I could tell what the fuck was going on when the actual martial arts happened. Unfortunately, especially with the kitchen fight, it feels like I’m watching the fight through a TV that’s been tied to a jackhammer or something. And that it’s not nearly as bad as the Ruhian fight scene earlier in the movie, or the jailhouse mud-wrestling, just shows how bad those scenes are.

    I’d hoped that getting the movie on DVD and watching it on the small screen would make the shakycam less obvious, but if anything it just made it worse. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: if you’re gonna show me a fight involving human typhoon Yaya Ruhian, at least let me see what the fuck is going on. Once again I can’t believe I’m saying this, but here it is: the fight with Colin Firth(?!!) is way better-presented than anything in THE RAID 2. Yeah, that also makes me sad.

    Y’know what though, I shoulda seen this one coming. Someone in the comments above brought up BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY. A film I actually quite liked, but the best part of it by far is that fight between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. From the reaction of the crowd around them (the awestruck waiter going “It’s a real fight!” made me laugh my head off), to the perfect camerawork, to the slapdash choreography, to the sheer hilarity of the whole thing (my favorite moment would have to be the bit at the end where Hugh Grant, after being downed by Firth, grabs a dustbin lid and sucker-punches him with it, causing loud boos from the assembled crowd). What I’m saying is that there was already evidence out there that Firth had a great fight scene in him. So KINGSMEN shouldn’t have been a surprise.

  61. The Original Paul

    June 27th, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Majestyk – I am flattered about one thing though. I said in my review of KINGSMEN that Liam Neeson now had a challenge for the crown of “middle-aged badass action guy” in Colin Firth and remarked that I was ready to see what he could do with material like TAKEN. Then I read this from your comment:

    “I want his TAKEN ripoff and I want it now.”

    You see? In the words of every cliche’d action movie villain ever: we’re not so different, you and I. Eh?

  62. We’re nothing alike! Nothing!

  63. The Undefeated Gaul

    June 27th, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    The Raid 2’s kitchen fight is perfection. It was last year’s best fight scene bar none and I would be very surprised if Kingsman’s church fight doesn’t grab that title this year.

  64. Jeez, every time Firth does a spy film with Mark Strong, he ends up getting shot in the head, it seems.

    Anyway, really liked it. Think it’s the best of the Mark Millar comic adaptations so far, and I mean that in terms of the actual adaptation, as there’s definite improvements with the things they’ve changed here, like just disabling the signal at the end instead of flipping it so there’s a worldwide orgy, which is a problem when you consider how much incest, unwanted pregnancies and STD spread there would have been as a result of that. The comic also made Harry Eggsy’s actual uncle, which was fine, and it emphasised the class theme too, but the movie’s take is better, as is Eggsy already having some military training, rather than using the iffy “I know how guns work because I play modern first person shooters”. Harry’s death is far more ignoble in the comic too.
    As for the McDonalds product placement, beside the fact that I’m kinda over the whole complaints about that in most films (as it just reflects reality, and is fitting for a Bond pastiche, since brands are a big part of that franchise even as far back as the books), I think it also established how Valentin wasn’t born rich. He built his own empire, and while that gave him fancier houses, clothes and booze, he doesn’t develop all his tastes, because he’s rich and powerful enough that he doesn’t care how others perceive him for it.

  65. I have to wonder though if they were going to have Mark Hamill in the movie and kill him off, why not just have him play ACTUAL Mark Hamill, who appears and gets killed in the source material?

  66. According to the Blu-ray, that was a disagreement between writer and director. Vaughn didn’t like all the celebrity cameos that were in the book, but he did like the idea of working with Mark Hamill, so this was the compromise.

  67. I think just doing the one with Hamill would have been fine. Especially for the director who once put his supermodel wife on a billboard in one of his movies. It actually feels a little hollow in the movie how they keep mentioning disappearing celebrities, as it creates the expectation that you’ll see at least one.

  68. Oh yeah, the Iggy Azalea references had me assuming she was gonna show up at some point. But she must’ve had an exclusive contract with FURIOUS SEVEN.

  69. I assumed Iggy Azalea did show up because I don’t know what Iggy Azalea looks like.

  70. In the comic Eggsy frees the imprisoned celebrities too and gives them guns to help in the assault, and it’s implied one of them is Pierce Brosnan, which could have been a fun little scene.
    I’m interested in what the sequel will be like, as there’s no material to adapt it from, and it’s going to feature an American branch of The Kingsmen, as well as what sounds like a bigger role for Mark Strong. Speaking of whom, Vern, you should really check out WELCOME TO THE PUNCH, for the incredibly clear and coherently shot action sequences.

  71. I believe that you can’t complain about shakycam in Raid 2 and be totally fine with Kingsman when I would argue it was WAY worse in Kingsman.

    On a somewhat related note, I would argue that the Raid 2’s fights aren’t as strong as those in The Raid. I mean, I get being upset they cut away from the three way but the three way was loads better than the kitchen fight because there was real emotion there. We barely saw and got to know the adversary in the Raid 2.

  72. Over the weekend Film Crit Hulk posted a lengthy interp of Kingsman. It’s Hulk-sized, so there’s plenty to agree with and plenty to rub you wrong. Section 7 has a different take on the church scene than any of us seemed to. As close as I can paraphrase, Hulk says “I felt no emotions during this particular scene, and that is Vaughn intentionally presenting us with truly meaningless violence which is so non-engaging that it elicits consideration of the role that violence generally plays in action movies, including the continuously-critiqued 007 series.”

    I’ve got issues with how he arrives at his conclusion; I don’t recall feeling that the characters’ motivations were in-the-moment incomprehensible, I have a hard time entirely divorcing a depiction of violence from at least some real-world resonance, and I’m not convinced that Vaughn intends to thoughtfully alienate the audience instead of bringing them in with a showstopper. If you’d like a long chew on the movie though it’s a doozy. Favorite part was detailing movie’s class politics, which The Guardian (and others) misread bigtime.

  73. Re: Film Critic Hulk’s take… I dunno. I question the very bedrock of his argument, that Vaughn’s strength is that he can have his cake and eat it too, i.e. enjoy the cinematic joys of brutal violence while still subversively commenting on the ugliness of it. I’d say that’s clearly the INTENT of both KICK-ASS and KINGSMEN, but I simply don’t buy that the movie offers a lot of insight on that topic. At best, it’s a cheeky but one-note parody; at worst it’s a fig leaf to hide the anti-social violence behind a facade of irony. I certainly don’t buy that the church scene was intentionally disengaging to address the idea of meaningless violence in action films, if for no other reason than I didn’t find it particularly disengaging and I don’t think Vaughn does either, which is why he put so much effort into it. Oh sure, you can say the whole point is that he put so much effort into it to intentionally draw attention to how empty it is, but even if that’s true, he clearly also intends it as a showpiece, which is where the idea of having your cake and eating it too starts to fall apart. Is playing Freebird cliche’d or a commentary on being cliche’d? It’s a little hard to know the intent, but even if it is commentary it’s a pretty dull one.

    I’m also not sure he’s justified in his confidence that the movie is a Satire on the upper class and “not about global warming.” Jackson’s Valentine is actually shown to be a self-made made, who does NOT stand on fancy pants classist ceremony, and he specifically points out several times that he’s come to this conclusion only after realizing that he would never be able to get the world to change their ways in time to save mankind. I don’t think the point is about killing the poor and handing the world over to the rich, and in fact I think it requires a pretty loose reading of the facts to come to that conclusion. Valentine himself says that his intention is to save certain elite people so as to, in the words of Dr. Strangelove, “to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition.” Considering this plot comes, presumably, from Mark Millar, who Hulk hates so much, it seems like he’s really bending over backwards to find a better explanation than the obvious one. Obviously the film does make fairly apparent its distaste for upper-crusty hypocrisy, but I don’t think Valentine or his plan is part of that criticism, which I should point out is very explicit and direct compared to the other satire we’re supposed to be drawing from the supposed subtext.

    I do agree that the anal joke at the end is exactly the kind of joke he claims the entire thing is; a jokey way to bluntly state the unsavoriness of the situation that a “normal” spy film would dance around. Unfortunately it’s not especially funny, particularly since we know so little about Eggsy that it’s completely unmotivated from a character perspective and exists SOLELY as a awkward, isolated little bit of meta-humor.

    Still, I appreciate the thought. I don’t necessarily doubt that the movie aims to be more or less what Hulk is describing, I just don’t know that it succeeds the same way he thinks it does, and even if it does… so what? If it’s a parody of the anti-social tendencies in action cinema, it isn’t a particularly interesting parody. It actually works better as a regular dumb action movie than it does as a commentary on one, which is hardly anything to be ashamed of. I wish it were a better action movie too, but it has its moments, which is more than a lot of films can claim.

  74. I finally got around to watching this and I loved it, I’ve been thinking for years that they needed to bring back old school THE AVENGERS style British spy stuff and this is exactly the sort of movie I was thinking of, it’s pretty amazing when a movie comes along that is totally on your wavelength.

  75. Just realized that I still haven’t watched this shit. Have to make some time for it before the sequel drops.

  76. I am pretty annoyed that they brought back Colin Firth. I like him and the character but it was a perfect death that is completely cheapened now. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

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