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KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE

SYNOPSIS: Britain's super-secret spy organization recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency's ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

Review by Louise Keller:
A beguiling mash-up of the spy movie genre with a seamless blend of action, satire and spoof, Matthew Vaughn's envelope-pushing film offers hip, lip and zip. The plot flies wildly at times but there's plenty to entertain with gee-whizz gadgetry, a streetwise youngster groomed for spy-dom and a sterling cast including the scene-stealing Samuel L. Jackson as a lisping, philanthropist billionaire with misguided notions about climate change. Based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the Kickass screenwriting team Vaughn and Jane Goldman have concocted a heady martini that is definitely shaken not stirred and whose ingredients are colourful and often mind-blowing.

After two brief establishment prologues set in the Middle East and the snowy heights of Argentina that leave us reeling with unanswered questions, we are introduced to Taron Egerton's Eggsy, whose Pygmalion transformation during the course of the film takes him from South London punk who mixes with the wrong crowd, to bespoke tailored spy. And as Colin Firth's smooth operative Harry Hart (code name Galahad) tells him, 'a bespoke suit always fits' as well as 'manners maketh the man'. (Kingsman HQ is accessed through an elite tailor shop in Savile Row.) Harry has plenty of opportunities to show the wide-eyed youngster how things work in the Kingsman Secret Service, including the attributes of the bullet-proof brolly that doubles as a stun gun among other things.

Eggsy's initiation into the exclusive club (together with other Kingsman hopefuls) goes a long way into endearing us to him, as he shows his strength, courage and clear thinking when put through heavy-duty survival tests. (Sophie Cookson is appealing as Roxy.) The sky diving scene in which they are told that one participant may not have a parachute is terrific. The other contenders are hoity toity types who look down at the lower-class Eggsy.

Firth is suitably understated as the spy intent on repaying an outstanding debt - to the point of being a delightful immaculately groomed caricature, while Egerton is perfect as the new recruit, eager to make his mark. Michael Caine and Mark Strong are also part of the team. But it is Jackson whose flamboyant, villainous Richmond Valentine claims the film's key moments. 'No-one can hack into pen and paper,' he declares in one scene, the irony being that he is a technology guru. It helps that his side-kick Gazelle (Algerian dancer Sofia Boutella, amazing) is a svelte killing machine with razor-sharp bionic legs that slice and splice on call.

There are plenty of wonderful touches - like the kidnapped Swedish Crown Princess, Mark Hamill's kidnapped scientist, the discourse between Firth and Jackson about spy movies and watch for the elite dinner scene that is MacDonalds with silver service. Many will be at a loss at the controversial scene in Kentucky at the Glade Mission Church when all hell breaks loose. This is the film's most risky sequence and one that will have many scratching their heads and potentially feeling discomfort in the wake of current world affairs and related violence.

Sparking with energy and an abundance of ideas, this is a wild joy ride of a spy movie in which laughs, tension, surprises and action jostle for attention.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (MA15+)
(UK, 2014)

CAST: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Hamill, Harry Hart, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Jack Davenport

PRODUCER: Adam Bohling, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

SCRIPT: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (comic book by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: George Richmond

EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV, Eddie Hamilton, Jon Harris

MUSIC: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Kirby

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 5, 2015







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