Kingsman: The secret Service – Lets take all the fun out of James Bond, shall we? (Film Review)
Kingsman: The Secret Service is the first film that had me checking my watch not once, not twice but three times throughout the film, something I’ve not experienced since being forced to sit through X-Men, Days of Future Past. My personal experience of the film was terrible boredom laced with cringeworthy embarrassment for Colin Firth, who I really love to watch on the big screen. Layer Cake was one of the worst written films of 2004, Vaughn as usual skitting over the surface of detection with a great lead actor, interesting cinematography by regular life saver Ben Davis and sticking to boy fantasies that act like a crack addiction on the discerning faculties. The best part of Layer Cake was when my screener played up and the lip synching was off. But nothing could save the film from that super-silly writing, that assumed just prior to the worlds Breaking Bad hard-on, J.J. Connolly (who wrote the book I assume is just as superfluous) was the only one who noticed a connection between drugs and economics. Layer Cake brought together all the most boring clichés of the drug/money thriller without any fresh commentary, including outstanding lines like “Don’t take this personally, it’s just business.” It came across like a bunch of school boys trying to shock their mothers.
(Matthew Vaughn always reminds us political correctness was as much a cure to intense cultural boredom as it was an attempt to inject alternatives into our thinking processes.)
Sticking to the theme of school boys trying to shock their mothers, and just when we thought the screenwriting couldn’t get any worse, he comes out with the Kick Ass films and the hammer-to-the-brain dull X-Men films which he decides to write himself. Kick Ass and its anemic sequel took full advantage of the contemporary fact of cultural decline to take a genuinely interesting premise and replace, even the most distanced engagement, with a constant side stepping around the intuitive acumen of the film watcher. It doesn’t even come across as a clever ironic dance. Vaughn has the ability to make anything boring, to strip the most fascinating concept of human cultural engagement with a dogged refusal stimulate any aspect of the intellect. Even this concept – which would be interesting and clever if properly examined – is a happy accident of either the man himself being desperately stupid (bless his little cotton socks) or a profound intellectual laziness that he has managed to inject into everyone who works with him. Me thinks it is a sad combination of a little from column A and a little from column B. He’s become – arguably (and its a good argument) – the most overrated director around, as he gets progressively worse a film maker as years go by, appealing to the most advert-trained parts of our psyche allergic to self-examination. If there is a strong argument for film as pure entertainment over artistic impact, then Vaughn wants to strip down the entertainment aspect to a product that is so immediately forgettable, it can’t even impact word of mouth. It’s own form of anti-cleverness that would be exciting if it were deliberate.
And so he now turns his inability to notice anything of value, to the James Bond super spy thriller genre, again stripping it of all the pretensions that have given it some retro cool, and leaving us with just enough soulless shell to become yet another candidate for soporific mindlessness. I’m a fan of this genre, one of the many nuances I experience that conflict with my socio-political leanings, so I was willing to forgo judgement on Matthew Vaughn’s history, grasp a Colin Firth led vehicle into cool nonsense and take a willing step into the stupidity with which he beckons. But Vaughn’s power to kill something fun managed to shock me even again, as I was left with a dogs breakfast of a plot that made absolutely no connection to its inspirational material (or itself) a truly boring set of fight sequences that manage to distance themselves so far from reality that they can’t even be claimed as caricature and a nudge-nudge-wink-wink play on the chest thumping “Boo-ya” culture of the mindless American jock stereotype.
There is something to be said for reminding us how bad those Bond films really are, and if Vaughn has achieved anything, he has stripped the super spy thriller of its cool retro fun and contemporised it to the point where those of us who’ve grown to love those films are left with no apology. He’s brought all the tropes with him, the interesting henchman (in this case Sofia Boutella with razor-sharp paralympic blades) a villains plan that is overcomplicated ludicrous, the faux violence, the staged fight scenes, and the secret society stuff, all of which have been stripped of their cheek and their naughty commentary to a flat and lifeless surface that doesn’t even attempt to do anything other than look good. Kingsman: the Secret Service is a complete triumph of style over substance, where even the thinly implied substance thinkers have been attempting to glean over the decades for a certain genre is treated with absolute disdain. It’s like a McDonald’s meal with the pickle and the few limp vegetables taken out – nothing left but sugar and fat. No justification possible.
As a fan of this genre, I didn’t appreciate the film vampire Vaughn sucking the life out of it to make it a beautiful, limp corpse, but there is one saving grace. Kingsman: The secret Service, like all Vaughn films, is instantly forgettable. I found myself wondering back to Austen Powers last night, bourbon in hand, giggling as I realised I remember more from those films than I do from Kingsman. That is the thinkers saving grace.
Don’t waste your precious money and democratic choice on this film.