Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Manners Maketh Man

I saw Kingsman: The Secret Service Friday night.

It was an engaging spy story, with excellent, believable actors in all the roles. The soundtrack was fun, frenetic, and tight, but didn't interfere with the story. But, the movie was unnecessarily gory, featuring ridiculous amounts of blood and violence, and unapologetically evil characters.

So naturally, I loved it.

Before we go any further, let's get something over with.

No, I haven't read the comics .

I love a good story. I especially love it when a story opens with a solid action scene, establishes the world in which the story will be set, and features a guy getting sliced in half. What? I told you it was gory. But more than that, Kingsman opens with a scene that, for me, accomplished two things.

First, my butt was glued to the seat. I definitely wanted to know more about the characters, who they were, what they were doing, and why. That, in my ever so humble opinion, is the hallmark of a good opening. The second scene only heightens the need to know, and is just as disgustingly violent.

The second thing the opening scene did for me was rekindle my excitement about the new Star Wars movies.

Jeez, Katey, is everything about Star Wars for you?

Yes. Wait, no. Umm, what's the right answer?

Let me esplain. Despite being a relatively minor character, Mark Hamill lights up the screen. He reiterates for the record that he has solid chops, and can share the screen with anyone in the industry. Of course, many of you know that he's been doing voiceover work for lots of geeky things, and hopefully already realize that the man has skillz (besides whining about power converters).

I just want to pat his widdle head, don't you?

Right, so. Mark Hamill is a good actor. Cool. Shall we do Mickey Mouse roll call?

Colin Firth...

... is a badass, spy archetype.

Samuel L. Jackson...

... is a megalomaniacal genius bent on world domination. Well, sort of. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's a bit more interesting than domination. Did I mention he has a lisp? I love this. Yes, it's sometimes comic relief (I know, I know, ablist assholes in Hollywood), but it also doesn't stop him one bit from being ridiculously successful in life. He has another flaw that's atypical of the major villain in these pieces, but I'd hate to spoil it for you.

"...Thon of a bitch..."

Michael Caine the prototypical Number One. Head of the spies, Leader of the pack, Yoda of the Jedi Order... you get the idea. Also, he's Michael Caine, as only Michael Caine can be. It's important to know your strengths, and Michael Caine can snobby-British-guy with the best of them. In fact, he's my first memory of snobby-British-guy, and I may have to go watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels , because it's possible that I can't recite it from start to finish anymore.

Taran Egerton

.. who the hell is that? Well, you can click his name for his IMDB profile, but in short, he's the punk kid. The Will Smith to Firth's Tommy Lee Jones. (And now that you mention it, yes, their on screen chemistry is very similar to the MIB vibe, in more ways than one.)

Sofia Boutella

... is a straight-up badass. Her character, the Gazelle, has prosthetic legs... with FREAKING KNIVES IN THEM. Imagine Kill Bill, but instead of beautiful Hattori Hanzo swords, she uses her feet. Yup. She's absolutely fantastic and believable in the fight scenes (and apparently a dancer, so that's not so surprising). She's essentially Jackson's muscle. I love everything about this concept. Spry little badass female is the muscle for the large black man. Take all your preconceptions, and defenestrate them.

"This ain't that kind of movie, bruv."

Sophie Cookson a Strong Female Character. Except, she's also three-dimensional. She has imperfections. She even has a fairly significant weakness, which could easily afflict a person of any gender. And, minor spoilers follow... she is not protected from her fear by the big strong men. It is presumed that she will overcome it when the need arises, and there is no fanfare or hand wringing, just a nod, an acknowledgement of the impending challenge... and then she does it anyway. To me, it felt like she was treated like a male action hero would be in the same situation. I like that.

Mark Strong

... totally deserves a mention. He's awesome when he's on screen, does exactly what his character is intended to do, and does it well. He's kind of the Hardison of the Kingsman. And you know I'm a sucker for geeks.

Let's see, am I forgetting anyone? Oh... maybe just...

Matt Vaughn

...directed this movie. If you are not the type to pay attention to director names, let me help you out. He directed X-Men: First Class and Stardust . He also has a producer credit on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch .

Did I mention the soundtrack also rocks my socks off? You know the final scene in The Matrix, where Neo hangs up the phone, the music swells, and he bends his knees and shoots into the sky? (Youtube Link) It's like that. The music is there, being awesome, perfectly underlining the action without in any way detracting from it.

The story is also really well constructed. It has a lot of the classic elements of good story telling, and addresses a lot of the "little things" that many spy movies don't bother with. For example, it's established early on that the main character was a gymnast and a marine before he dropped out of life. Why does this matter? Well, later in the movie when he's parkour-ing across the rooftops of London, you don't doubt the validity of it. You don't have to suspend your disbelief quite as much. It's a small thing, but it shows a nice attention to detail.

So, geeks of my heart... if you like Tarantino, Spy movies, Samuel L. or Colin, get thee to a theater.

But if you're the squeamish type...

Be prepared to cover your eyes. Like, a lot.