Kingsman: The Secret Service
Not every tailor risks life and various limbs every time he hoists a thimble. But, then again, not every tailor works for a nifty little shop in London branded Kingsman.
Kingsman, is not, actually, much of a clothier at all—though its storefront certainly looks like one. Rather, its namesake, the Kingsmen, is super-secret spy agency, wherein "dressed to kill" takes on a whole new meaning.
The suits? Bullet proof, of course. The shoes? They hide a hidden blade coated with a deadly neurotoxin. The umbrella? A shield and a shotgun. The accessorized cigarette lighter? A hand grenade. Sure, that sort of attire would scare the living daylights out of many a man. But for years, Harry Hart—code name Galahad�����has worn his Kingsman cloth with unflappable aplomb, spoiling nefarious plots, saving world leaders and essentially making the world a safer, better-groomed place.
But, alas, the secret agency lost one of its members recently—sad proof that secret agents don't actually live twice—and Harry is on the lookout for a new recruit. He thinks he's found one in Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, but there's worry that Eggsy isn't Kingsmen material. He's not cut from the same cloth as an Oxford or Cambridge man, you see. Most of his education was more vocational—learning how to survive London's meanest streets. His home life's a mess, stocked with a loving-but-rudderless mother and her openly abusive boyfriend, Dean (along with whichever hooligans Dean's drinking with these days). Oh, and Eggsy's in jail, too, for stealing a car and purposely crashing into a police cruiser. Yes, perhaps not the ideal person to carry around an explosive lighter.
But Harry knew Eggsy's father—a former Kingsman who saved Harry's life. So Harry gets Eggsy out of prison and shows him just what being a Kingsman is all about.
Not that the Kingsmen will just hand the guy a bulletproof suit and welcome him in. No, Eggsy will have to survive what's described as the world's most dangerous job interview to earn the spot over a slew of wealthy, crisp-talking, golden-eyed silver spooners. And that won't be eggsactly easy.
When Harry and Eggsy first meet, the younger man gets no slack from the established agent. "I think your father would be bitterly disappointed in the choices you made," Harry tells the aimless man-boy. But Harry believes the Kingsmen can turn Eggsy's life around and fill it with purpose. "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man," Harry says, quoting Ernest Hemingway. "True nobility is being superior to your former self."
Eggsy already has many good qualities, it turns out. He loves his mother dearly, and he's given up many opportunities to improve his own life so he can stick close to her and protect her. He's deeply loyal, too—a trait that may be misguided when he refuses to snitch on his bad-egg friends, but a perfect match for an agency where secrecy is paramount.
And as his training goes on, more of his honorable qualities come to light. When the recruits' dorm room fills with water, and everyone else scramble to save just themselves, Eggsy's the only one who figures out how to save them all. When he and six recruits jump out of a plane—and are then told that between them they have only five parachutes—Eggsy formulates a plan wherein everyone survives, and he nearly dies himself to ensure his fellows' safety. Indeed, the guy shows a willingness to sacrifice almost everything for the greater good the Kingsmen serve.
Everything except his dog, I should say. [Spoiler Warning] Eggsy is ordered to shoot the pooch as proof he'll follow even the hardest of orders. He refuses. But I should note that it's later revealed that the bullets were blanks. The parachute thing? A ruse, too. The Kingsmen, we're finally informed, never risk or sacrifice a life needlessly—only to save another. The Kingsmen are patterned after the knights of old, they say, and a certain code of chivalry and behavior is part of the gig. So is discretion. For all the many times the Kingsmen have saved the world, never have they gotten a word of credit for it—which is as they say it should be.
Valentine, the movie's prime villain, decides to test his (what else?) doomsday device on a bigot-filled church (modeled, presumably, on the late Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church). We hear the pastor unleash a hate-filled sermon directed at gays, Jews, blacks, Catholics and others. (The pastor also decries divorce and abortion.) When a spying Harry tries to leave the service, someone tries to stop him. He tweaks the congregants by saying he's a "Catholic whore" who needs to visit his "black, Jewish boyfriend."
Valentine, when his destructive plan is about to come to fruition, tries to win people over to his side, reminding them that in Genesis, Noah and God are both heroes even though most of the world gets destroyed.
Eggsy asks an imprisoned woman for a kiss. She counters by saying that if he saves the world, she'll let him have (anal) sex with her. When he later returns to collect payment, she smiles and turns over so he (and we) can see her bare backside. (Then the door closes.)
Dean kisses and cuddles with Eggsy's mother, then insinuates that he and a friend are going to have a threesome with her. References are made to homosexuality, and Eggsy makes a pair of obscene gestures suggesting masturbation. Recruits—both men and women—are asked to seduce a young heiress. (None are, by design, successful.) Women wear bikinis.
Life in Kingsman is sometimes disturbingly disposable, while death is played for laughs.
The most horrific scene takes place in a church: Congregants are artificially forced into a state wherein their aggressive receptors are amped way up and any inhibitors are turned off, leading to a bloodbath with a hundred or more fatalities. People are shot (sometimes point-blank in the head), stabbed (in the arms, legs, chest, head and eyes), skewered and crushed. Blood flies. Mangled bodies smash into walls. And the aftermath is just as disturbing.
Valentine later triggers the same actions on a global scale. People beat and strangle one another in cities around the world. In London, we see a double-decker bus (from some distance away) skid into teeming masses of people.
Valentine has planted a device in his supporters' heads that, if triggered, will cause their noggins to explode in a puff of fire, ash and colorful goo. When one man's implant is triggered, the blast coats his assailant with ash. When hundreds are triggered—including one in the head of President Obama—the result is intended to look, to moviegoers, like choreographed fireworks (complete with musical accompaniment). We then see the headless corpses.
Kingsmen get into several fights with various henchmen, leading to death or injury in a long litany of ways. Beer glasses smash against heads. Bodies are stabbed and sliced. Someone is skewered straight through the chest. One man has his kneecaps shot. Another is cut clean in two—vertically. (And we later see a postmortem photo of his body stitched back together, his halved face frozen in an expression of surprise.) A recruit is seen lifeless on a soggy floor. Someone falls on an explosive device, sacrificing himself for others. Folks die from poison. A mother tries to cut her way through a door to kill her child.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 100 f-words and 30 s-words. A wide variety of crudities dodge in and out of that volley, including "a--," "b--ch," "h---," "pr--k," "b-llocks," "ballsy" "bloody." God's name is misused a handful of times, twice with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused once. The n-word is spit out once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Kingsmen are whiskey snobs. Whenever a Kingsman dies, survivors gather to raise a toast of the expensive spirit in his honor. And when a Kingsman battles a legion of thugs, he takes care not to spill the vintage whiskey they've trotted out for a hostage. (It's later sipped by someone else.) People also drink wine, beer, champagne and mixed drinks, and Eggsy references James Bond's affection for martinis when he orders one. Recruits are served drugged champagne. Ancillary characters smoke cigarettes.
Other Negative Elements
Valentine can't stomach up-close gore—confessing that if he sees any blood, he'll projectile vomit. We later see that he's telling the truth. Recruits mock Eggsy because of his underprivileged background.
"Manners maketh man."
So Harry tells Eggsy right before whupping a pub-load of hooligans while barely mussing his hair. It's this line—the idea that manners matter, even in this crazy violent world, that what we say and do counts—that coaxes me toward the core ethos of Kingsman: The Secret Service. There is a certain chivalric undercurrent to this film that resonates, one that embraces the ludicrous idea of a "gentleman spy" and makes it as attractive and cool as when Sean Connery was twirling his Walther PPK.
Moreover, strip away all the f-words and flying blades and exploding heads, and you have a story of self-improvement and redemption—how one man took another under his wing and showed him that he could make a difference for the better.
But, of course, you cannot simply ignore those exploding heads. Which means this 21st-century homage to 20th-century 007 is actually an incredibly, abysmally unmannerly movie.
If what we say and do matters—and it does—what are we to make of the more than 100 f-words spoken here? If the Kingsmen exalt human life as they say, would they attempt to justify a movie that treats its loss like a slick, slippery joke? Even Valentine has enough humanity about him to turn away in revulsion at the death he causes. But the movie asks us to watch and enjoy.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Taron Egerton as Eggsy; Colin Firth as Galahad; Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine; Mark Strong as Merlin; Sophie Cookson as Roxy; Sofia Boutella as Gazelle; Jack Davenport as Lancelot; Michael Caine as Arthur; Mark Hamill as Prof. James Arnold; Geoff Bell as Dean
20th Century Fox
February 13, 2015
June 9, 2015