Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Ambition is good, nerdiness can be good, and it was this combination that was the driving force behind Matthew Vaughn's directorial breakthrough Kick-Ass i 2010. He largely wants to replicate the formula here, this time deconstructing and reconstructing the spy genre and throwing homages left and right, apparently to everything from James Bond to Austin Powers. The level of ambition is equalled by some amazing production values and use of music, all of which makes the film and the preposterous storyline surge forward like an old-fashioned sailor heading for the red light district.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves – the sex analogies can wait until the final half of the film. Because until that, a Colin Firth full of dignity and elegance coupled with some stark and effective realism about growing up in working class London gives the film an effective combination of sophistication and edge. That is until Vaughn goes completely overboard and seemingly just stops filtering his ideas and lets everything flow. There are sudden bursts of inexplicable superpowers, there are puerile sexual innuendos, and there is over-the-top megalomania (complete with a ridiculous performance by Samuel L. Jackson) and comic book action which makes most everything in this genre seem realistic in comparison – and which contrasted with some harrowing dramatic segments (such as the child locked in the bathroom) leaves a vapid aftertaste, to say the least. To call Kingsman flawed, would be one of the understatements of the year, but it does have its moments of sheer fun. Look for Norway's coolest actor, Bjørn Floberg, in a hilarious role as the Swedish Prime Minister.