So it’s Valentines Day weekend, traditionally one of the best times of the year to cuddle up with your most precious loved one and enjoy a romantic movie. But this year, Hollywood has let anyone with a shred of decency down big time, by releasing the twisted, overrated sex-driven flick “Fifty Shades of Grey” – a movie which any Catholic with common sense should know to avoid in the first place.
Kingsman : The Secret Service
Yet there is an alternative, though it has problems of its own, aside from the fact that it’s an action movie rather than a romance. “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” a teenage James Bond-style escapade on steroids, is a British production that puts American action movies to shame. Packed with great gadgets, hilarious (but at times gruesome) action, brilliant inside-jokes about movies and clever dialogue overall, it could line up some surprising returns at the box office this week.
Unfortunately, while there are some truly great fun moments for adults, the filmmakers took what could have easily been a teen-friendly PG-13 film and allowed frequent foul language, a couple of intense (yet humorously played) violent scenes and a brief but strongly implied sex scene at the end into the movie.
A Fight Scene Which Might Turn People Off
The most graphic fight scene occurs among a congregation in a church that is clearly modeled after the Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious pseudo-Christian cult that has for years cheered on US soldiers’ deaths at their funerals, claiming that their deaths were God’s punishment for modern society’s open attitudes toward homosexuality.
Adults who are used to intense action movies will have few if any problems with the content, but those who are easily offended by language and gouging, stabbing, kicking and fist fighting (though the worst of it is shown in ridiculously fast motion) might do well to steer clear.
The movie stars Colin Firth (“Bridget Jones’ Diary,” “Love Actually”) as you’ve never seen him before, playing a British secret agent named Harry Hart, who is also known as Galahad. In an absolutely crazy opening sequence, he takes part in a rescue attempt of a kidnapped professor, only to botch it and in turn be saved by a fellow agent code-named Lancelot. But when Lancelot literally (yet bloodlessly) gets split in half by a sword-wielding female villain, Hart must recruit a new agent to take his place.
Among the candidates is Eggsie, Lancelot’s 17-year-old son, who has grown up in the decade since his father’s death to become a thug in the making. Eggsie enters Kingsman training when he calls a secret number Hart gave him as a child and is bailed out after recklessly racing a stolen car backwards through the streets of London.
Enter The Villain
After a hugely entertaining series of training exercises, including perhaps the most harrowing skydive scene ever committed to film, Eggsie teams up with Hart to take on the villain du jour: Valentine, a billionaire cell-phone mogul who is clearly modeled as a black Bill Gates with the lispy voice of Mike Tyson. The fact that Valentine is played by Samuel L. Jackson, cutting loose with one of his best roles of the past 15 years, takes the movie to an almost perfect comic plane. Valentine makes global warming his pet cause and tries to lobby the world’s leaders peacefully to do something about it. But when they don’t take the environmental crisis seriously enough, he devises an evil plan to depopulate the world by giving away free SIM cards all over the world to everyone with a cell phone, then rigging them to control their minds.
Once these are installed in everyone’s phones, Valentine intends to wait for the perfect moment to send a signal that will drive the phone users to brutally kill everyone around them. The test run is made in a backwoods Kentucky church modeled on the Westboro Baptist Church, with the redneck congregation driven to slaughter each other in a fashion that makes the Jonestown Massacre look like a Christmas party.
I’ll leave the rest of the plot’s insanity a secret, but that church scene is going to be the red line that will potentially drive away a giant part of its potential audience in Middle America. The depiction of the mad preacher screaming about hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage is out of kilter to the rest of this otherwise comically violent and frequently foulmouthed yet undeniably charming movie. Yet even so, it’s about two minutes out of a nearly two-hour film, and much that remains after that scene goes back to being a fun romp.
In a way, that’s either the blessing or the curse of the entire film. Co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn previously made the two “Kick-Ass” movies, which also featured brilliantly inventive plots and groundbreaking action sequences, yet were kind of creepy due to the fact their heroes and villains were mostly children cussing and killing their way through life. If he would just tone them down a few notches, the movies would still be crowd pleasers while drawing far more eyes.
With Eggsie a bit older and more mature than the kids in “Kick-Ass,” and the absence of an eerily young girl heroine whose presence feels vaguely pedophilic, “Kingsman” is an easier film to enjoy.