By Matt Keay @Mattadamkeay
Ten years ago, Colin Firth would’ve been an excellent candidate for the role of James Bond. Previously, he had set hearts a-fluttering in Love Actually, and as Darcys both in the hugely successful Bridget Jones films, and in Pride And Prejudice. He’d also proven his acting chops in films such as The English Patient and And When Did You Last See Your Father?, as well as honed his comedy skills in Mamma Mia! and St. Trinians. He even proved he could sing, to a point. Basically, the guy had exposure, was a heartthrob of sorts, and a perfect choice for our most popular spy.
However, history tells us that Daniel Craig eventually bagged the role, and made the part his own completely, resulting in three massively bankable blockbusters, with a fourth on the way. The Bond series was rebooted, and Firth as an action hero left merely an idea. Until now, as Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic Kingsman: the Secret Service has created the Colin Firth Bond nobody really wanted, but are now stuck with.
Joining the pantheon of the ‘men of a certain age saving the day’ trope which has been creeping onto screens ever since Clint Eastwood asked criminals if they felt lucky, or Bruce Willis yippe-ki-ay’d himself into Alan Rickman’s bad books, Firth’s performance as Harry Hart is a revelation, and certainly not in a manner in which you have ever seen him before. For even if Firth had ever got the role of Bond, the level of fun which Kingsman had coursing through its veins would never have materialised. The new Bond films are sanitised. Cruel, even. There isn’t room for double entendres and elaborate gadget sequences with Q anymore. The Craig Bonds are for the modern age, so there is a place for a retro comedy spy series, and one that harks back to the fun Bond of the 60s and 70s, which Kingsman does in spades.
Kingsman is a simple tale. Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin is a street kid whose late father worked for a super secret spy organisation. Firth’s Hart is tasked with training this young protégé in the world of espionage, all the while fending off the baddie of the piece, a tech villain interested in zombifying the population with a plan so painfully ‘modern’ that it’s not worth explaining here.
The first act is your standard scene-setting origins, with an early pub scene that acts as a primer for the madness that ensues later in the film, because, let me tell you, the OTT nature of the latter part of this film is seemingly Matthew Vaughn having a game of one-upmanship with himself. Stabbing, shooting, and exploding. Stabbing, shooting, and exploding. It’s pretty much Scooby Doo, directed by Michael Bay. There’s lisping super villain Samuel L Jackson, a woman with blades for legs, and a host of predictable but perfectly cast British players (Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Jack Davenport). Kingman is exactly what you would want in a caper of this sort, and Vaughn’s experience with ultra-violent comic adaptation has prepared him to make the most of the material. (The church-set showdown/throwdown/meltdown is completely bonkers, and worth the ticket price alone.)
That’s not to say the film does not have its flaws. The comedy is laddish in the extreme, chauvinistic and unforgiving, and there are those who will complain that the set-pieces are unnecessarily graphic. Which they are, but don’t let that put you off. Yes, Kingsman is boisterous, borderline offensive and exhilaratingly ridiculous, but it is all the better for it. It’s probably a good thing that Firth never got to be Bond, because 007 will never again be this much fun.
Kingsman is in cinemas from January 29th.