Today I watched Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
The titular Kingsmen are a secret service founded by British Billionaires who have operated in the shadows for the better part of the 20th century. In the modern day they find themselves looking for a new recruit and so they hold a series of brutal tryouts with each Kingsman nominating a candidate. Galahad, they all have Arthurian code names, has nominated a guy named Eggsy, a directionless young guy from a poor family. Eggsy has the it factor and Galahad sees his potential but while his training happens there is also a supervillain afoot. Samuel L. Jackson fills those shoes here as Valentine, a Steve Jobs style villain as seems to be all the rage. His plan is to basically purge the world with a Langford Basilisk type brain hack, which is, like, super dark for a film that is other wise quite comedic.
A Langford Basilisk is a sci-fi concept in which human brains are hacked by particular visual patterns, the concept can be expanded to include any kind of audio/video transmission vector. So you hear a sound and suddenly you lose control, it is a very dark and disturbing concept dredged from cyberpunk nightmares, not this morally confused homage to Bond style super spies. The hyper violence also doesn’t really fit and points to the incongruities in it’s old fashioned and laddish ideals of gentlemanly behavior. This movie definitely makes an attempt at reinventing an action hero for the modern world but I am not really sure it succeeds in that sense because of the aforementioned incongruities.
For all the hero worship the film bathes it’s titular protagonists in, they are still just stooges in one way or another, which is something all the good Bond’s understood and I am including the old ones, not just the grim modern films. The Kingsmen are a secret police pretty much, even if their relationship with world governments is not explained sufficiently. They serve an establishment which comes under increased scrutiny from people on all sides of the political spectrum and pretty much need a comically over the top, trope heavy villain to distract us from how thuggish they really are. So while I felt that there were some solid jokes, good performances, and great action, I don’t think I really liked this film, it’s morality was just too questionable. 2/5