Reviewed by: Jake Roberson
spies in the Bible
brainwashing / mind control
assassins / murder
issue of global warming and climate change
teacher/mentor student relationship
teamwork important to success
|Featuring:||Taron Egerton … Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin
Colin Firth … Harry Hart / Galahad
Samuel L. Jackson … Richmond Valentine
Mark Strong … Merlin
Michael Caine … Arthur
Mark Hamill … Professor James Arnold
Sofia Boutella … Gazelle
Sophie Cookson … Roxy
Jack Davenport … Lancelot
Tom Prior … Hugo
|Director:||Matthew Vaughn—“X-Men: First Class” (2011), “Kick-Ass” (2010), “Stardust” (2007)|
|Producer:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton) is something of a prodigal genius. Not that he’d let on about his giftedness. Or admit to his prodigal… ness. He’s had a bum lot in life. His dad died when he was a preschooler, and he’s lived a lower class life with an abusive stepdad ever since. He’s tired of it, but he’s given up. So he coasts, acting out when pushed around by the wrong people. There’s still a spark in him, he just doesn’t see it anymore.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) carries a burden. Not that you could tell based on his crisp suit and gentlemanly demeanor. He’s the sort that looks to have it all together. But his heart is heavy knowing that his mistake cost a man his life, and cost a young family their dad.
Known in the Kingsman—a super secret independent international intelligence agency—as Galahad, he believes that helping Eggsy is the right thing to do. Not just because he feels responsible for his father’s death, but also because he can see the last remaining spark in the young man and wants to fan it into flame.
Little does either of them know that they’ll need it to fan into an inferno if they’re to have any hope of stopping Valentine—an eccentric, lisping Earth-conscious, violence-averse, self-made Silicon Valley-esque billionaire (played by a brilliant Samuel L. Jackson)—from causing the people of the Earth to purge themselves in order to save the planet.
Language: The Kingsmen are very concerned with conducting themselves as perfect gentlemen… except when it comes to their language. 108 variations of the f-word plague the script, as do 34 uses of sh*t. God’s name is abused eight times, three of those being paired with d*mn.
Half a dozen uses of a** litter the rest of the proceedings along with a dozen or so British vulgarities like “bloody” and “wanker.” In one scene, during an angry rant/sermon, a pastor uses offensive terms to refer to Jewish people, black people, and homosexuals.
Sexual Content: A woman offers to have anal sex with a man if he can save the world. When he does, we briefly see her bare backside as they happily prepare to consummate their agreement. In quick scenes, a few women are seen in their bikinis on the beach. A joke is made about a threesome, and one man makes a reference to ejaculating in someone’s fast food order. Elsewhere, a quip about “winning someone over in the biblical sense” is made.
Violent Content: Violence is a key component of the Kingsmen’s world, and they practice their particular brand with a certain calculated, balletic brutality. The camera soaks all of their (and others) work with glee, as dozens (if not hundreds) of people’s bodies are bashed, bruised, snapped, shot, stabbed, impaled, crushed, sliced, exploded, and even immolated.
The most unsettling scene takes place inside some form of Baptist church in rural southern America (a hateful, pro-life, racist church that seems to something of a stand-in for Westboro Baptist). Played for laughs, we’re made to watch for several uncomfortable minutes as the congregation is driven into a bloodthirsty brawl by Valentine’s malevolent tech. All those different ways to break bodies and take lives that I mentioned in the previous paragraph? Those are all present at least once during the bloody scene. In just one scene.
Elsewhere in the film, a man threatens his stepson with a kitchen knife and a woman, not under her own control, tries to hack through a bathroom door to attack her toddler-aged daughter. People are routinely shot or stabbed in the head, and a few men lose limbs to bullets or sharp blades. One man’s body is sliced completely in half, and we watch as the pieces slide apart from each other. Another long scene features dozens of people’s heads—literally—exploding like fireworks.
Drug/Alcohol Content: Kingsmen are quite fond of their fine wines and whiskeys, and plenty of both are consumed casually over the course of the film. On a few occasions, drinks are spiked, with varying effects.
Galahad sees a lot of potential in Eggsy, just as he also saw it in Eggsy’s dad so many years ago… and he is determined to help the young man take hold of it, in spite of the class system that has separated “lesser” men like Eggsy from the Kingsman (and others) for so many years. “Nobility is not about being better than another man,” Galahad admonishes Eggsy, “true nobility is being better than one’s former self.”
This idea is the core of the Christian faith, but is also, sadly, something we too often lose sight of in our day-to-day. Our faith in and redemption through Christ doesn’t make us better than anybody else (Romans 10:11-13). Instead, true faith and redemption means we are saved from and better than our former selves through God’s grace (Philippians 3:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s not about the berating or putting down of others due to the specks in their eyes; it’s about the beauty of God’s forgiveness that helps remove the logs from our own (Luke 6:41-42).
Curiously, the film’s treatment of violence brings up its own interesting set of problems. It’s obvious that Valentine’s plan to cause planet-wide genocide to save the Earth for a select few is wrong, much in the same way that HYDRA’s plan to do the same in Marvel’s “The Winter Soldier” was wrong. Even if he (and HYDRA) believes that taking these lives will, somehow, save more lives in the end. The end does not justify the means. We all tend to agree with that.
But, then again, usually only to a point. The Kingsmen themselves are not above taking lives to save lives, and they take quite a few lives, as they try to save the world. And, of course we agree with and cheer for them because they are taking out the bad guys. But, as far as Valentine is concerned, he also was trying to take out the bad guys. We cheer because we side with the film’s good guys, but it’s important to think about the reality of subjective justice and who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong, and who is “good” and who is “bad.”
Those looking for a sharp sendup of the spy genre are going to find exactly what they hoped for in “Kingsman.” The script is crisp, and the action is unique enough to stand on its own even as it occasionally parodies. It is homage with a winking wit and plenty of charm, and Samuel L. Jackson nails the role of an understated, but undeniably megalomaniacal villain.
Which makes the violence all the more unsettling, since we’re supposed to laugh and cheer as bodies hit the floor after being dispatched with bloody panache. In spite of a little bit of lip service via Valentine’s personal distaste for blood and death, there seems to be very little real interest in dealing with the heavy cost of violence.
Just as trying to tell people to be better with their finances while you teach them to gamble is counter-productive, so is trying to make a statement about the need for less bloodshed while asking people to laugh as dozens of people’s heads explode. Even if you’re trying to be tongue-in-cheek about it, the message is quickly lost.
Ultimately, “Kingsman” is the type of movie I really wanted to like. Artistically, it has all the gadgets it needs to be a great film in this genre. But, unfortunately, it also packs in several unnecessary pieces of gear that weigh it down and make the trip one not worth the cost—which is a shame. Especially when we know what could have been, since other movies have managed to accomplish the same objective with less baggage (see “Get Smart”).
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…Kingsman unnecessarily takes suave and sophisticated into vulgar, offensive territory…
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk
…ultraviolence… heads explode in blockbuster proportions… loosened teeth flying through the air… killing off one another is made entertaining… A impenetrably ludicrous plot… [2/5]
—Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
…Life in Kingsman is sometimes disturbingly disposable, while death is played for laughs. …More than 100 f-words… an incredibly, abysmally unmannerly movie…
—Paul Asay, Plugged In
…well-suited to juveniles… There’s not a believable moment…
—Barry Paris, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
…overly long, exceedingly violent and ultimately perplexing… there’s little to care about in Kingsman…
—Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
…‘Kingsman’ falls awkwardly between Bond and Austin Powers…
—Kyle Smith, New York Post
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