Kingsman, directed by Matthew Vaughan and starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson, is a rousing, raunchy, rude and red-in-tooth-and-claw comic book of a movie about a top secret society of international world-saving spies disguised as Savile Row tailors. Try, if you can, to imagine a James Bond movie directed by Quentin Tarantino having just come off of a binge watch of Downton Abbey and The Avengers.
The Arthurian connection, such as it is, is that the society is populated by black-belted posh swells with Round Table monikers. Colin Firth is “Galahad” while the head honcho, Michael Caine (struggling a bit with his Received Pronunciation), is, of course, “Arthur.” Along with the sublime Colin Firth, Mark Strong’s Q-ish “Merlin” was (forgive me) magical.
And seeing as how the trailer was one of the most fetching I’d seen in years (see below), I went into the movie with abundant hopes of having a grand old time. In this I wasn’t entirely disappointed.
Alas, this is where the Tarantino comparison comes in. As with Inglourious Basterds, I came out of Kingsman suffering the keen disappointment of thinking I’d just seen about half (maybe even three-quarters) of a great movie. There were moments of stylish action and fiendish humor displaying something approaching genius. (In Basterds, it was the three big scenes with Fassbender and Waltz.)
But then the other half of Kingsman (and Basterds) was, alas, disturbing. Disgusting. May I say…Offensive?
In particular, there was the [SPOILER ALERT!] huge set piece fight scene in an obvious Kentucky stand-in for Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, Director Vaughan clearly despises these people, with their hateful blather about Catholics, Jews, gays, and so forth. Can’t say I’m overly fond of them myself. But what Vaughan has in store for these folks in this scene is so outrageous–a neverending bloodbath in the guise of a murderous mind-control experiment–that I couldn’t help but wonder if, in his heart of hearts, director Vaughan wasn’t showing us exactly what he (and not just Jackson’s supervillain) would wish on these pathetic people. Like some postmodern Vlad, it seemed to me Vaughan was having way too much fun spitting their bigoted heads upon pikes.
Chivalry? The Round Table?
Not so much.
For this viewer, at least, the obscene, orgiastic violence turned a whole group of human beings, however despicable, into an It. And It took me clean out of the movie.
Mr. Vaughan, repeat after me: Manners maketh Man.
But hey, Firth, Strong, and the tailoring were superb.