Kingsman: The Secret Service


Viewed – 19 June 2015  Online rental

The spy spoof is nothing new, but placed in the hands of Matthew Vaughn who breathed a welcome injection of rebellious attitude to the costumed hero genre, with Kick-Ass and probably made one of the finest X-Men to date in First Class, I’d say we were in safe hands.  A troubled teenager who just so happens to be related to a former Kingsman secret agent gets the chance of a lifetime to join the top-secret British agency just as a megalomaniac internet billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) prepares to cause mass genocide.  Cue plenty of gadgets, tailored suits and before you can say Mark Hamill cameo it’s all action, intrigue and tongue planted firmly in cheek.

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Colin Firth, everyone’s favourite swarve English gent is perfectly cast as Galahad, the Kingsman’s top agent who single handily takes said troubled teenager Egsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing and helps him crawl out from under his Asbo lifestyle and housing estate surroundings to become someone capable of saving the world.  Jackson plays a little against type as an (annoyingly) lisping villain but is clearly having a ball – even if his character is a tad too cartoony for my liking.  The whole training stuff also gets rather predictable. Add to this a budget clearly spent on it’s decor, Michael Caine and designer-suits rather than decent effects (honestly, CGI blood, CGI explosions.  Who ever said that crap looked any good?).  But such shortcomings aside, director Vaughn pulls out all his nudge-nudge wink-wink tricks, bending and breaking genre conventions to throw in the odd surprise and a few slam-dunk gags (land of hope and glory?)..

It lacks the venom of Vaughn’s earlier Hit-Girl scene-stealing tour-de-force and clearly struggles with over ambition (the international locales can look noticeably fake, and action relies more on fancy camera trickery than genuine fight choreography).  Enthusiasm counts for a lot though, and the cast, crew and excellent soundtrack (a fight played to the tune of “Give It Up” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band?  Oh yes!) still make this worth a watch.  Bond has nothing to worry about though.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Woman In Black


Viewed – 28 February 2012  Cinema

Daniel Radcliffe has done very well with the highly regarded Harry Potter movies, and it’s good to see him breaking out and carving his own career outside of such a heavyweight franchise.  This being his first major role, it offers the young actor a chance to be taken more seriously, and not be known just for one, admittedly admirable role.  Whilst mourning the death of his wife, a young lawyer (Radcliffe) is given a job to gather together the belongings relevant to a recently deceased woman’s will, and travels to a sleepy town that is more than a little troubled, following a series of children’s deaths.  He soon realises there is something very strange going on, and it all seems linked to the mysterious woman in black, a ghostly figure he see’s at the abandoned mansion he’s been asked to visit.

Based on the famed book of the same name and written for the screen by Jane (Stardust, Kick-Ass) Goldman, this is well made and very creepy, in the grand tradition of classic haunted house horror movies.  No surprise when it’s made by Hammer, who cut their teeth on this stuff back in the day.  How refreshing it felt to sit down to a more traditional horror that relies on genuine scares rather than blood and guts.  Radcliffe is very good and carries the movie well, being both gutsy and shit-scared at times, even if overall the role doesn’t exactly stretch him.  He’s also supported well by one or two recognisable English thesps.  The movie reminded me a great deal of Tim Burton classic Sleepy Hollow, and also had elements of Spanish chiller The Orphanage.  Although I did see many of the scares coming, as it does wallow in genre clichés … they were still executed effectively and made me jump and gasp throughout.  The set design and the location as a whole were also enough to send shivers.

I’d say the family-friendly rating prevented the movie from really going for it however, and the overly-familiar setting and situations meant I wasn’t totally freaked out.  I would have liked to learn more about the ghostly woman’s past, and the ending seemed to come by all of a sudden – yet this was still entertaining, and had enough good moments and tense atmosphere to make it one to watch.  On this evidence, I look forward to what the former Harry Potter does next.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Kick-Ass


Viewed – 31 March 2010  Cinema

To say I have been looking forward to this one would be an understatement.  Ever since hype generated from the 2009 comic-con, the teaser trailer, and quite simply, the concept alone – I have been wanting to see this for a long time.  Following the story of nerdy teenager Dave Lizewski who has always had an ambition to be a costumed superhero, one day he finally plucks up the courage to realise his dream and orders a suitably eye-catching costume over the internet.  Of course as you can imagine, the idea of a real teenager becoming a superhero, with no particular powers, just cast-iron balls and a yearning to be noticed (he’s invisible to the opposite sex, it seems) is going to be met with guffaws by anyone who comes into contact with him, as is quickly shown when he tries to take on a couple of petty muggers and comes (very much) worse off.  Yet he is not the only wannabe crime fighter at large, and after becoming an internet sensation he attracts the attention of two real costumed heroes, namely the pint-sized Hit Girl and her mentor Big Daddy, a seriously bad-ass Father and Daughter duo with a grudge against the local mob outfit. 

Matthew Vaughan’s incredibly imaginative movie seems like one of those ideas you can’t believe nobody has done before.  These heroes aren’t in an alternative world, where the villains are caricatures and every scrap ends with a comical one-liner and a cheer from the audience – this is the real world, with real dangers, and these guys are up against it with the possibility of getting themselves easily killed at any moment.  It’s refreshing, and insanely cool, helped immeasurably by a stellar cast including seasoned bad guy Mark Strong and a brilliantly complex Nicholas Cage.  But let’s be honest here, it’s the younger end of the cast that shine the most, with newcomer Aaron Johnson carrying the movie as the gutsy but naive Dave / Kick-Ass with some dead-pan narration along the way.  Also on hand is nerdy favourite Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the mob boss’s under-appreciated son.  Yet all these are completely overshadowed by the wonderful Chloe Moretz as the brilliant Hit-Girl / Mindy, a whirlwind of expletives and violence cooler than a truck load of Neo’s.  She also has a knack of delivering lines that would shock you if you wasn’t laughing so hard.

In addition to the perfect casting, a script that sparkles with brilliant dialogue and some great moments including a superb (if over the top) finally, is a soundtrack of perfectly chosen tunes that enhance every action sequence, which in themselves are choreographed expertly showing that Matthew Vaughan & Co can deliver more than just soppy fantasies (Stardust) and luke-warm mob movies (Layer Cake) to hold their heads high amongst the best of ’em.

An incredibly fun movie and an easy contender for movie of the year.

Verdict:  5 /5