Somehow we wandered into the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service — I am surprised the ticket taker did not stop the oldsters on the way in, “Are you sure you mean to see this one, old man? You look like a pastor, besides.” Now we know this movie it is another Matthew Vaughn, hyper-violent, self-consciously and darkly-pomo, comic-book fantasy. Director Vaughn is the one who gave us the snarky, swearing, pre-teen assassin in Kick-Ass.
If you love me, you will tell me which movies I can see. How did I not know what I was getting into?
I don’t usually hate everything about a movie. But even the clever parts of this one are overshadowed by its generally vile nature. It is deconstruction with a nasty twist. It plays like a training video for ISIS do-it-yourselfers — only they do what others just fantasize. I hear Vaughn has a rabid fan base. Or do his movies create rabid people out of the unsuspecting? (This is where you begin to pray, “Lord saves us!”)
In this unintended horror movie Vaughn does for James Bond what Kick Ass more or less did for Spider-Man. I think it might have been meant as playful. But if we are playing, this child needs play therapy fast, since it is nasty play, like some brutish sibling torturing you when the folks are away.
I admit that the sets are great, the digital carnage is well-executed (what I could see through my fingers) and the tailoring is impeccable. They are doing the-last-James Bond kind of thing. Vaughn thinks his audience is so vile they would never understand the comparatively sweet 60’s, or even 80’s. At one point the two main antagonists, Colin Firth’s super-spook Harry Hart and Samuel L. Jackson’s baddie, Valentine, sit down to compare their love of the old Bond movies. They miss the certainty of them, the style, and that endearing silliness. Vaughn’s film argues that such movies have gone out of fashion. He slices up their memory with so much vulgarity and violence that he makes sure only the slightest hint of their relative humanity is left. When James Bond movies are wistfully seen as the morality we once had, times are indeed rough.
To my credit, I did get, from the trailer, that Colin Firth had been lured into a thin, comic book plot. I knew it was another recruitment movie. Her Majesty’s secret service are a man down, and the smart money is on Eggsy, a council-estate wild boy, to outfox the handful of upper-class creeps who think they’ve got the gig sewn up. So I expected dumb, but I like Colin firth. However, the gist ends up being that, these days, even a working-class lad can dream big and become a slick, womanizing, “male chauvinist,” dinosaur if he sets his heart on it. And I did not know the Samuel Jackson would do another weird role as the main villain, Valentine, a baseball-cap-wearing tech billionaire. The actor’s lisping delivery is a big joke at the expense of his old foe Spike Lee, but not a good one. He has a henchwoman with razor-sharp prosthetic feet, allowing Vaughn to indulge the kind of effects coup he has made his grisly trademark: she dances around unsuspecting foes and turns them into tossed salad.
About halfway through the movie, I realized I should have brought a scorecard. How many times will the word “fuck” be used in this movie? Am I so out of it that people actually use the word in that many variations? – enough so that the casual viewer in Japan will be able to figure out what is going on? I needed to write down things that need further research, like whether anal sex with a princess is really considered a reward for good behavior, like whether watching a church full of bigots in Kentucky be massacred provides a great number of people satisfaction, like what is it that made our audience laugh when heads began to explode all over the world?
I suppose my keepers would say, “Will you just stay out of those movies? Have you not heard of porn, or something? Do you not know that marketers are preying upon innocent, unhinged minds (such as yours, I suppose they would mean) to make a buck? Have you forgotten about evil – it’s mainstream?” They would be right. But unsuspecting or not, it is good for me to get a dose of what is going on out there. In Korea last weekend, Kingsman was hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey (that other horror film that tries to turn S/M into romance). Kingsman has already made $85 million. (Fifty Shades has made $500 million worldwide).
Last week we were talking about how to be more effective at getting out our message as Circle of Hope — a message also tuned to speak to the times. One thing Kingsman did for me is energize me to get our message out as well as I can. I want to be one of the King of King’s men and keep putting myself in the path of the evils that are rolling over a lot of more-vulnerable victims than I am.