Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: The Kingsman cycle

By Brent Cutler

Kingsman: the Secret Service (2014). 189 minutes.
Director: Matthew Vaughn.
Writers: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (screenplay). Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (comic book). Stars: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017). 201 minutes.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (comic book).
Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong

There is nothing like resurrecting old and discredited myths; but if it’s got to be done make a blockbuster film or two. This was clearly the case with the two Kingsman films: Kingsman: the Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).
The concept behind Kingsman is an elite secret service unit based in a Saville Row tailor’s shop; recruits are selected from all walks of life and have to undergo highly extensive training. Those selected are provided with the latest weaponry as well as made-to-measure suits and training in social etiquette for those from less well-heeled backgrounds. The films centre around the character of Gary Unwin (played by Taron Egerton), known as ‘Eggsy’, a working-class youth whose father was killed in military action back in the 1990s. Eggsy finds himself on the wrong side of the law after an incident of joy riding in the first of the two films and is saved from incarceration by his slightly well-heeled mentor, Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth.
Both films are based around the notion of a benevolent state with its intelligence service looking after us innocent folk,
I seem to hear the term ‘Greater Good’ used rather a lot these days. The idea of the intelligence services working for the benefit of all comes in the light of relations about spooks infiltrating environmentalist groups and engaging in elicit relationships with their female members, whilst at the same time failing to halt terrorist outrages such as the incident in Greater Manchester. Perhaps if they had not interfered with Libya in the first place we might have been better off but that is perhaps for another article.
Both films are based around the One-Nation Tory notion of upward mobility and New Labour pure meritocracy. In these days of the housing crisis, zero-hour contracts and tuition fees perhaps we should simply view both films as comedies. Surveys also suggest that university graduates from working-class backgrounds still earn less than their well-heeled counterparts. In other words, once you have paid off your tuition fees, and having spent much of your valuable study time working for Deliveroo, you might be lucky enough to work in a call centre.
I must confess, however, that in terms of pure entertainment I did enjoy watching both films. They are filled with action-packed scenes and excellent special effects. The second film features two young working class actors: Thomas Turgoose from the This is England series and Kema Sikazwe from I Daniel Blake.
Like all action adventure films, they have their bad guys. In both films the villains are from the non-ethical super rich. In the first film a computer geek, played by Samuel L Jackson, and in the second film a drug baroness who lives in a 1950s theme park in Cambodia, played by Julianne Moore. In other words, once these few bad apples have been defeated, usually violently, the ethical capitalists can get on with running the world and we need not worry.
A recurring villain in both films is Charlie Hesketh, played by Edward Holcroft from London Spy. Charlie, with his sense of upper class entitlement and pure arrogance, is the antithesis of the working class Eggsy. After failing the Kingsman selection process Charlie goes on to work for the bad guys; again those of us from a left wing disposition would claim that the likes of Charlie are the Bad Guys. Again, the reality is our ruling class is made up of the Charlie Heskeths and not the likes of Eggsy.
As well as the undeserving or over entitled rich, the other bad guys in both films are the bad mannered and ignorant poor. In the case of the first film Chavs in a London pub, and Rednecks, in an American diner, in the second. What is perhaps interesting is the relative ease in which Harry Hart finishes off the lower orders in both cases and the resources needed to defeat the wealthy supervillains. What does this tell us about where real power is?

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