By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

As the closing credits to this film concluded, I thought to myself, “It’s too early in the year for a movie this good.”  My thought refers to the fact that the months of January and February are the dumping grounds for Hollywood’s mediocre and worst films.  That is if the studios aren’t releasing some acclaimed award nominee/winner, they are unleashing some banal or horrendous abomination on movie audiences.  Usually, they are films that got held back or movies for which the studios could never find a better time to release.  So after enjoying this fun and exciting wild ride of a movie, I had to ask why is this getting released now?  Whatever the actual reason is, I couldn’t be more delighted to give a highly positive review to a brand new release in February. Going into Kingsman, I had a feeling that I would have a pretty good time, but had no idea how overjoyed I’d be when leaving the theater.

Based on the comic book series, The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman is a thrilling, incendiary, and often hilarious tribute to spy fiction.  Writer Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn, the duo who also adapted Millar’s Kick-Ass comic, have done it again.  This movie plays out very much like a well-mannered, British cousin to Kick-Ass and I rather enjoyed this kinship .  It also made me giddy to see the usually reserved Colin Firth portray a wicked cool ass-kicking spy.

Firth stars as Harry Hart, code name: Gallahad, a member of an elite group of British spies who call themselves the Kingsmen.  After years of feeling guilt for the death of one of his agents, Harry decides to recruit the agent’s son Eggsy (Taron Egerton).  As Eggsy goes through the arduous training, technological genius Richard Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) sets into motion his nefarious plot for the world.  Already on the radar of the Kingsmen, Valentine remains undaunted in his plans, but uses his tools and talents to take down their covert operations.

Just as I enjoyed the uproarious and subversive humor of Kick-Ass, I absolutely loved the use of this comedy in Kingsman.  In fact the movie’s over-the-top violence and action combined with the genteel nature of the Kingsmen agents makes for a lovely entertainment juxtaposition.  Much like the world of Kick-Ass acknowledges its comic book inspirations, this universe tips its hat to several spy fiction predecessors.  Fans of Kick-Ass will definitely enjoy this movie.  Not only does the humor have a similar tone, but the action sequences play out similarly.  I suppose this is appropriate considering that the same writers and filmmakers are involved. Still, Kingsman has enough unique qualities going for it to set it apart and even perhaps surpass Vaughn and Goldman’s previous Millar adaptation.

This movie definitely has an exceptional ensemble cast.  In addition to Firth and Egerton, the film features stellar turns by Mark Strong, Michael Caine, and Sophie Cookson.  The multi-talented Mark Hamill makes an awesome appearance as British scientist Professor James Arnold and the wickedly sexy Sofia Boutella portrays Gazelle, a prosthetically enhanced warrior and bodyguard to Richard Valentine. As Valentine, Samuel L. Jackson is an absolute hoot to watch.  He has a blast hamming it up a bit as the villain of the film.  There is a particular aspect of this character that plays out as a very funny running gag in the film.  It does get a bit old at times, but then Jackson uses it so brilliantly at times that it would make me laugh nevertheless.

Because of its gore, violence, and subversive sense of humor, Kingsman: The Secret Service will not appeal to everyone.  It certainly earns its R-rating and does so with glee.  For those who hated the language, suggestive content and violence of Kick-Ass should probably avoid this film.  For those who enjoyed it, this is a movie to run out and see as soon as possible. Films this good hardly ever get released in February.

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