Friday, March 11, 2016

Film Friday: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

I’m back! I admit the ads for this one intrigued me. This movie was sold as a tongue-in-cheek knock-off of James Bond with traces of Vin Diesel’s XXX and Samuel L. Jackson as the villain. What could go wrong with that? Well, what I got instead was a British white trash rip-off of Men in Black without the aliens.


The story opens with a spy being killed and another (Colin Firth as agent Galahad) breaking the news to his wife and young son. Firth works for a privately run “Secret Service” based out of a tailor shop in London, with a training base in the same castle used by Professor Xavier to train the X-Men. Their agents all wear uptight British-cut suits and old-lady glasses and carry umbrellas. They are essentially caricatures of British “gentlemen.” And they use a variety of gadgets, each of which you’ve seen in James Bond movies.

As an aside, I’m sure that the use of these gadgets and a handful of scenes taken from Bond movies will be described as “an homage,” but they really aren’t used in any creative way to suggest anything other than pilferage.
Anyways, the son’s name is Eggsy. Flash forward. Eggsy is now firmly ensconced British white trash. He can’t speak the English language in any recognizable way. His mother is a welfare whore. He drinks, fights in bars and steals cars. The pride of modern Britain. Firth, who thinks he owes Eggsy because of what his father did, bails Eggsy out of jail and enters him in the Kingsman training program, where he naturally doesn’t fit in with the other snooty trainees. Insert obligatory “bad rich guys mock Eggsy and heroine steps up to defend him” scene.
Meanwhile, in the plot: Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a lispy billionaire who wants to save the world by destroying it, starts kidnapping or co-opting famous people and celebrities. Firth investigates and immediately narrows his suspect list to Jackson because Jackson is the only possible suspect. As he and Jackson then trade uninspired and obvious innuendo telling the other they know what the other is, Eggsy goes through his training montage in a series of scenes you’ve seen in dozens of other films. Meanwhile, Firth acts like he’s doing something. Finally, Eggsy soon teaches us that white trash is tougher than effete rich Brits.


//swills beer, knifes someone Oy! This movies sucks! It’s boring and predictable. It’s a pure rip off through and through. And it’s annoying to watch. There isn’t a single moment in this film which is surprising. There are a few things that are supposed to surprise us, like Jackson being a villain who faints at the sight of blood, but that’s a minor idea which the writer wrongly thinks is strong enough to carry the film.

The plot itself is so worn that it’s threadbare. How many times have you seen the young man who is brought into a plot by a friend of his dead father? How many times have you see a training plot that involves the hero start out as the student most likely to fail out, who gets picked on by the rich white males everyone thinks are the best but is defended by the hot chickie co-star, who then shows up the rich white males (who are secret cowards) while proving his natural talent makes him the best, only to decide to quit over some hidden pain, only to come back when his mentor gets killed and everyone is cool letting him lead the team to a victory at the end of the movie. Nope, never seen that before.
Jackson plays an insane villain. Been there, done that a million times. The hot chick turns out to be just as good as the hero and they hook up. Been there, done that too. The boss double-crosses the hero because he secretly works for the villain. Check. There’s a final fight at the villain’s lair that plays out by the numbers. Check. The hero wins because the villain does something stupid which lets him overcome an entire army of henchmen. Check. Yawn.

You get the point.

This movie is Men in Black with the British trash kid in the Will Smith role and Colin Firth in the Tommy Lee Jones role. Unfortunately, whereas that movie thrived on Smith’s fish out of water learning to fit in role and the great chemistry between Smith and Jones, this film fails miserably on both counts. Trash and Firth have zero chemistry. It’s like watching two dead fish lying side by side when they interact. And whereas Smith was endearing in how he learned that the world was bigger than he thought, Trash spends his time showing us that he’s got bigger balls than the rest of the f**ing world! Oy! It’s annoying.
And speaking of annoying, this movie’s politics suck. At first, you wonder if the film might not be conservative because the villain is an environmentalist who wants to kill humanity to save the earth. That sounds like a conservative criticism, but I think the writer just thought they were being “outrageous” in picking an “impossible” villain. The rest of the movie has very different politics. At one point, you get to watch the members of a racist white American church kill each other and you’re supposed to revel in seeing Firth kill them all off. The rich white male candidates are shown to be deceitful, shameful cowards who scream about who they know, whereas the white trash boy is made the hero without reforming any of his nasty traits. Rich = effete. White trash = pure. Ditto on the rich elites who sign up voluntarily with Jackson’s plan to kill off the rest of humanity. There are anti-Thatcher references, anti-police statements, anti-Americanism, and so on.
This film felt to me like it was written by someone from a British low-class community who wanted to make an over-the-top attack on the people who “is f**in keepin me down oy!”, but knew to throw in a handful of Hollywood liberalisms to get it made. And what they did was take a plot they’d seen a million times and fill it with anything they could steal from other movies. Everything – the gadgets, the characters, the locations, the scenes, the plot points, the overall plot itself, etc. – is stolen from some other movie. It’s boring, derivative and insulting.

This one sucked.



Patriot said...

Agreed. Saw it once and had no desire to see it again. Once again you hit all the points that made this movie boring. I think anyone on this blog could write a better script and storyline then this.

And glad to have you back here after a long absence Andrew.

Kit said...

I enjoyed it.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Patriot! It's been hard getting back into the groove. For a while there, I didn't even have the time to see any movies, and the ones I saw just weren't reviewing.

I had high hopes for this being a lot of fun, but it really just bored me and then turned me off.

AndrewPrice said...

You are disowned, Kit! Just kidding. Reasonable minds can differ.

PikeBishop said...

Yay, welcome back Andrew. I have been clicking over every day hoping to see some new article. Hope you are well again my friend

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks PikeBishop! Things are going well, hence I'm back full time! :)

Anthony said...

The characters were bland and the story was utterly predictable, but the action sequences before the limp final sequences were fun.


For my money, the highlight of the action bits was the first fight (where the spy ends up catching the wineglass) and it was all downhill from there. The church scene was predictable but well staged, there was nothing at all interesting about any of the ending fights.

Its nice that the movie wasn't afraid of the red stuff, but to return to a theme, the blood and gore at the end was so CGtastic it lacked impact.

Wasn't terrible, but wasn't great like some of my friends had told me. I think movies like this and XXX do well when the Bond franchise is crapping the bed (I loved Craig's debut, even enjoyed the first sequel, but the second was trash and I haven't even bothered to watch the third).

whitsbrain said...

I really, really wanted to like this movie. I think it looks great, has cool performances by Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, and spoofs spy flicks, which is always fun. But this movie is too mean-spirited for me to get past. The slaughter scene in the church, even if everyone there is being driven wild by Samuel Jackson's evil bad-guy plot, is cowardly. The message is that it's okay for everyone in that church to be disposed of because their personal beliefs and opinions are stupid. I'd bet a little digging would find that the filmmakers have a distaste for silly, religious people. I don't expect movie makers to always offer two-sides of every coin (i.e., not all religious people are crazy), but this movie chose to victimize a group that based on their beliefs would choose not to fight back.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I think there is definitely a welcome place for movies like this whenever the Bond franchise gets too serious. Going all the way back to the 1960s, the lighter knock-offs have been fun. And at one time, I remember people thinking that XXX might even replace the then-fading Bond series. So I had expected to like this.

But I didn't for the reasons I outline.

AndrewPrice said...

whitsbrain, I agree completely. Indeed, I almost used the words "mean spirited" in the review. There are several times in this film where I feel like they are openly engaging in politicized slander/attacks and where it felt offensive.

The church scene was the worst because it was clear they thought we were supposed to be enjoying the carnage just because of who these people were. But I also felt that the film was an attack on conservatives, the middle class, the British upper class, and basically anyone in authority.

ScottDS said...

It's been a while so I can't comment any specific stuff, except to say I enjoyed the film very much and thought it was balls-out insane (it is from the makers of Kick-Ass, after all!).

As for the church scene, I'm usually the first one to call out a movie for being mean-spirited (I even expressed a similar sentiment to Kit in the other thread), but the congregation is so clearly based on the Westboro clan that it didn't bother me too much. The filmmakers might be many things but no studio - and I know you'll say I'm wrong - but no studio will greenlight a movie where a church full of innocent civilians is killed by the good guy! Better to make them repulsive parasites - at least that might alleviate the shock of it all.

P.S. Saw Spectre and I pretty much agree with your assessment. I liked it but it meandered and the Blofeld stuff was much ado about nothing.

Koshcat said...

I too liked it better than you did. It wasn't great but it entertained me on a flight from Houston to Denver.

Harry Hart: Nonsense. Being a gentleman has nothing to do with the circumstances of one's birth. Being a gentleman is something one learns.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think you're cutting too fine of a hair. The issue to remember is that the left has been equating Christianity with people like the Westboro a-holes for a long time. So when you see something like this, it doesn't read as "fringe hate group," it reads as "anti-Christian leftist statement."

Spectre disappointed me, which was too bad because it had such potential visually.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Excellent quote, and something for people to consider. Sadly, these days, we're told too often that accidents of birth are destiny.

Kit said...

I'll admit, the church scene disturbed me, too.

Especially in light of what occurred in Charleston a few months later.

Kit said...

When I saw it I had just read another spiel by Theodore Dalrymple about the decline of Britain and the rise of the British white trash so seeing a movie that seemed to praise at least the manners of a gentleman over the thug lifestyle many today praise felt like a breath of fresh air.

tryanmax said...

I thought this movie was a fun romp so long as you don't expect anything meaningful from it. It'll end up as standard Sunday afternoon on the forgotten b-movie channel eventually. From my vantage, the politics were squishy at best. It seemed like a point was trying to be made, but was lost among the abused tropes. Agreed that in Hollywoodland, Christian = Westboro and it's been that way s long time. Anyone with a cross on their wall probably has a (hot) daughter locked in the basement. That's just the world, amirite?

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, The church scene bothered me.

I can see your thoughts re Dalyrymple. My problem was that I didn't see any growth from the main character in that regard. He was still British white trash at the end, he just wore the suit.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, "amirite?" LOL!

They did abuse a lot of tropes, that's for sure. I'll be curious too see if this ever ends up in regular airplay. I could see it going either way.

Tennessee Jed said...

I recorded this one during the last HBO/Cinemax free trial weekend. I had it on while I was.distracted, but just looking at it as background caused me to lose any interest. Then, they upgraded my DVR and I lost the movies in the que. No loss apparently.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, This isn't a movie you will ever miss.

Allena-C said...

Good review, Andrew!
One of the most predictable and boring flicks I have seen. The church scene struck me more as a fantasy by the director rather than just another idiotic scene among many.

Pawn4King said...

Hi Andrew. I am a long time reader since the time you used to post at Breitbart back in the old days. This is my first post on this forum.
Essentially, I agree with you. Personally I enjoyed the movie since I saw it as what it plainly is: Popcorn escapism, and nothing else. Also It didn’t hurt that I didn’t pay to see it but watch it with a dear group of friends at a home theater. Poking fun among friends at bad movies makes them watchable (well some of them at least).
I confessed that I was curious due to opinions I’d read about the movie saying that it was politically incorrect: that it skewed sacred cows like Obama, Islamic terrorists and global warming alarmist professors as well as lefty silicon valley billionaires. And well… it does, but as you pointed it out it reserves its viciousness for right wing targets (Thatcher, that Christian church, etc.). The whole scene at the Christian church was vicious in the extreme, and just before someone points out that it was the effect of the villain’s gizmo I should note the look of utter contempt in Colin Farrell’s face while he was listening to the cartoonish sermon of the preacher. A contempt (a venom I dare say) that he never shows for any of the villains in the film.
Last, I want to point something curious in the film. It is something that it is very difficult to determine whether it was the writers’ intent or they were (as they say) “betrayed by their art”: the extreme importance of a good father in the family. Notice that when Colin Farrell’s character visits the widow of his KIA friend and colleague, she lives in a well-off home and everything gives a good impression of a family. Then we zoom years in the future (years with no good father figure present) and everything is a disaster from every possible perspective. And the only way things begin to change is when Colin Farrell’s character appears and assumes the role not only of mentor (he goes beyond that) but almost of a surrogate father and that’s when junior begins to change for the better. As I said, I do not know if the writers had this in mind or not.
Best wishes for the forum.

AndrewPrice said...

Hi Pawn4King!

Great points. They did poke fun at Obama too, but I suspect it was more of a joke. I suspect it was a "he would never really do this, so it will be funny." Or maybe the writer was skewering the entire political class? That's possible too. It's hard to tell, but I did get the sense that the film did save its venom for the right... like the church scene. I too felt that it was meant to convey a very strong, and very broad message of contempt. It felt to me like this was meant to mock a great many people, not just a handful of racists.

You make a great point about fathers too. Without his father, Eggsy's life fell apart completely, and with the return of a father figure, it does all start to come back together. I don't know if this was intended or if the writer just thought it worked and didn't think about the implication, but that is a plus in the film's favor.

Thanks for commenting! :)

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