“Manners maketh man.” – Harry Hart
In the land of reboots and redos we covet the rare original property that sticks its head out maybe once a year if we’re lucky. Say what you will about the overall outcome of his films, Matthew Vaughn is one that strives to bring those rare properties to life. While yes they tend to be pulled from comics or graphic novels, they’re usually on the more obscure side when it comes to the average moviegoer. From Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass to Millar’s Kingsman, Vaughn tries to make the bizarre and insane something to enjoy on the big screen. Now, finally, after so many delays it’s a joke at this point, the third entry, this time a prequel, The King’s Man is here.
Featuring many of the same beats as its two predecessors, The King’s Man is a prequel showcasing the early days of the Kingsman Secret Service and how things took shape then to create what Eggsy and Harry know to be the modern day service that it’s become. The original charge of the service is Orlando Oxford (Oxfords not brogues) played by Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes has demonstrated his ability to play the serious, no nonsense archetype as demonstrated in the Daniel Craig Bond films and of course the villain to Potter himself, Voldemort. On occasion however he branches out and plays the more effervescent character or in the case of The King’s Man, a serious type in an over-the-top kind of story.
The King’s Man begins in the early days leading up to WWI. Through clever storytelling, the origins of this fake agency is inserted into actual history. Seeing too much oversight and not enough action from the established agencies already in place, the Kingsman tailors band together to create an agency with zero oversight and the funds to create change where they see fit. In the biggest mission of their infancy, the Kingsman must uncover and destroy a secret cabal with intentions of obliterating millions in an all-out war.
On the face of this secret group is the man known by many simply as Rasputin. Played by Rhys Ifans, Rasputin is a man of eccentricities and violent tendencies. Ifans brings to life a myriad of Russian stereotypes not to make fun of but to create the cliché villain whose very accent strikes fear in his enemies. Ifans’ performance as the Russian holy man is the highlight of this film. While there is much to enjoy about the newest edition of this franchise, Ifans is an absolute blast to watch as he chews up every moment he’s on screen. From his Russian dance style fighting to metaphorical gold emitting from his mouth, he is a treasure to behold whose only crime in the film is departing far too early. I think this is true of everyone in the film though. It’s clear all involved had a lot of fun making something so ridiculously cool.
Tonally the film can feel jumbled and off kilter. In one moment it’s a whimsical exchange of hand to hand fighting over small scale things only to jump into scenes of massacre as WWI begins and the trenches are formed for the soldiers to meet their final moments in, covered in mud, rain and blood. It can be silly only to turn things on its head with death and loss. While it can all be seen as serviceable to the overall plot, the Kingsman franchise is generally looked at with a more comedic action perspective rather than something straight out of 1917. For me though this is a small gripe that I’m sure the more uptight critics will allow for it to ruin the movie as a whole. In my eyes, as I said, it’s all to serve a point that without the Kingsman service, war and atrocities like it are too easily achieved.
I’ll admit I’m biased when it comes to this franchise. I reached a point with the second film that whatever happens from then on I was on board. The first film is exceptional and with the second we were given something less impactful but for my money still every bit as worth the time and effort to experience it.
These are not movies meant to be taken too seriously. In my opinion, Vaughn and company saw a vacancy of silly, gadget-driven, frivolous spy fun left by the Daniel Craig Bond films and the Bourne franchise. While those certainly have their place, one thing they are not is funny or silly. The Kingsman franchise is what the Bond of old used to be. But with more of a propensity for violence and coarse language. It’s the modern adult’s kind of film best enjoyed with the children asleep in the other room. Or better yet with the kids at the fire station left for adoption because kids are the worst and who needs that kind of stress in their life? Just kidding of course… yeah right.
A case can be made that the first is still the best of the franchise and you’d be unlikely to find many who would disagree. That said, much like the second movie, The King’s Man is still a lot of fun with great, insanely chaotic action sequences filmed in a style unique to these films. Vaughn puts his personal touch on the characters as well as the story making this a viable return to the world of violent tailors. If you enjoy the other films in this extravagant franchise then The King’s Man will scratch that itch that only these movies can.
Rated R For: sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material
Runtime: 131 minutes
After Credits Scene: Yes. Mid-credits.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 8/ Acting: 8.5/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 9
OVERALL: 8 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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