Review of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)

Trailer from YouTube

This was last week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, a flick based on a comic book series. It is an odd mixture of dark comedy and silliness. At its base, however, it is a surreal bloodfest that rivals many war/zombie apocalypse movies but ultimately appeals to idealism, patriotism, and egalitarianism.


In 1997 somewhere in the Middle East, four masked men have captured a terrorist (Adrian Quinton) and are trying to extract information from him through torture. When the terrorist picks his head up, they realize he’s holding a grenade pin in his mouth. One man, Lee Unwin (Jonno Davies), throws himself on the terrorist to contain the explosion, saving his fellows.

“How did I miss it?” mutters Harry Hart (code name Galahad) (Colin Firth).

In a tailor shop in London called the Kingsman, Galahad and his associates drink to the memory of the deceased partner and welcome Lancelot (Jack Davenport) into the association of the Kingsman, the Secret Service.

Later, Harry offers the dead man’s widow (Samantha Womack) a pendant with a phone number she may call in a time of need. She must speak the code, “Oxfords, not brogues.” She declines. She wants her husband back. He then offers it to her young son, “Eggsy” (Alex Nikolov).

Seventeen years later, bad guys hold Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) captive in a remote cabin in Argentina. Professor Arnold is known for his activism in climate change. A knock comes at the door. Lancelot appears. He helps himself to a drink (too suave) and then beats the bad guys to a motionless pulp.

As he’s about to release Professor Arnold, another knock comes at the door. A lovely young lady with blades for legs, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), cuts him in two, top to bottom. She covers all the bodies in the cabin with sheets and opens the door for her boss, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who gets squeamish at the sight of blood.

Gazelle and Valentine take Professor Arnold with them.

Meanwhile, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) doesn’t stay little forever. Now in his early 20s, he misbehaves in spectacular ways. He calls the number on the pendant he still wears. Long story short, Galahad bails him out of jail and submits him for replacement in Lancelot’s slot in the Kingsman. This involves a rigorous training and winnowing process against a backdrop of the group’s efforts to thwart a mad genius who has decided that the problem of climate change is best solved by eliminating vast numbers of people.


The Kingsmen is an international group of secret service agents created in the wake of WWI by men who had money but no heirs as they’d lost sons in the Great War. The tailor shop serves as a front but also as a place for members to buy natty clothes. They assume code names drawn from King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table.

And they are very, very cool.

In broad strokes, I saw a bit of the old James Bond movies in this. They’re referred to obliquely and in style. Another influence is the X-Men. One might stretch things and add Harry Potter with the life-threatening training and animal mascots the recruits are given.

Like Professor Arnold, Valentine has been active in the cause of fighting climate change for some time. He’s become radicalized and now sees global warming as a fever and mankind as a virus. “A cull is our only hope,” he proclaims.

A modest proposal.

And to kick off this cull? A dance party. What else?

At one point, Valentine’s guests don’t seem to be enjoying themselves.

“The fuck’s wrong with them?” Valentines asks.

“I don’t know,” Gazelle mutters. “Could be something to do with the mass genocide.”

While the violence in the movie is off the scale, it tends to be cartoonish. Before giving the goons in Eggsy’s favorite pub a well-deserved beat-down, Harry/Galahad locks the doors, declaring, “Manners maketh man.”

He begins by hurling a pitcher of beer with an umbrella handle and striking the forehead of one. That goon is down for the count.

Hey, it could happen.

Valentine controls people through free sim cards and extra special implants. At his signal, the cards trigger aggression and eliminate inhibitions. One limited exhibition takes place in a church Harry has gone to investigate because of its ties to Valentine.

The sermon is so venomous that Harry gets up and walks out. A woman confronts him. Harry’s response is one of the best lines in the flick because of its deadpan delivery:

“I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend, who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam.”

And then, the good stuff hits the fan. Only Harry emerges alive.

According to Wikipedia, this scene has been cut from the movie’s showing in several countries. It is bizarrely violent, and, well, Han shot first. Gazelle and Valentine watch remotely, but of course, Valentine turns away. He can’t stand the sight of blood, and gods know, there is plenty of that.

The bloodshed has a cartoonish exaggeration that I guess is meant to be absurdist, if not outright amusing. It was hard to feel sympathy for the people in the church, who were hateful to the core, yet given the violence in places of worship recently, I couldn’t quite shake a sense of horror watching it.

Paradoxically, when Harry is giving life lessons to Eggsy, he describes a “gentleman” as one who behaves like a gentleman. It has nothing to do with birth or clothes (or presumably money). It is a choice of how to conduct oneself. It is an exhortation to behave, to view life as precious, worth saving and worth fighting to protect. Manners and respect for one’s fellow humans are important. How…square.

Despite misgivings, I enjoyed this movie.

Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Directed by
Matthew Vaughn

Writing Credits
Jane Goldman…(screenplay by) &
Matthew Vaughn…(screenplay by)
Mark Millar…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by) and
Dave Gibbons…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by)

Cast (in credits order)
Adrian Quinton…Terrorist (as Adrian Quentin)
Colin Firth…Harry Hart / Galahad
Mark Strong…Merlin
Jonno Davies…Lee Unwin
Jack Davenport…Lancelot
Alex Nikolov…Little Eggsy
Samantha Womack…Michelle Unwin
Mark Hamill…Professor Arnold
Velibor Topic…Big Goon
Sofia Boutella…Gazelle
Samuel L. Jackson…Valentine
Michael Caine…Arthur
Taron Egerton…Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin

Released: 2014
Length: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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