When you consider the ingredients that make up a Long Island Iced Tea, it should taste somewhere close to lighter fluid. However, when mixed correctly, it tastes illogically and dangerously good.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is the Long Island Iced Tea of movies. It should be a mess, as it mixes two parts loving homage to the cheeky, Roger Moore-starring James Bond movies with one-part comedy, one-part action, one-part Cinderella mythos, one-part Tarantino with just a dash of horror and a slice of social commentary as a garnish.
The mad bartender who makes it all go down so smooth is director Matthew Vaughn, who most recently was conquering the box office with “X-Men: First Class” and who has here reassembled nearly the entire creative team behind his bloody, gonzo breakthrough “Kick-Ass.”
It would be easy to dismiss Vaughn as all style and no substance if he hadn’t brought together a top-shelf cast (several playing against type) all completely committed to this bonkers flick.
Our story centers around “Eggsy” Unwin (more-than-capable-newcomer Taron Egerton), a lower-class Londoner whose father died in the employ of a shadowy organization. It’s not long before Eggsy himself is recruited by this same group called the Kingsmen, a super-super-secret spy organization made up of posh Brits with codenames like Galahad (Colin Firth), Merlin (Mark Strong), and, of course, Arthur (Michael Caine).
In addition to being impeccably dressed and mannered, the Kingsmen are highly lethal and cunning; and Eggsy’s training is equally tense and brutal.
Meanwhile, roaming the globe is a megalomaniacal, Internet-billionaire named Valentine (and played with barely-restrained glee by Samuel L. Jackson), who seems harmless enough sporting a late-90s b-boy style and a lisp.
But when you go around with a henchwoman with razor-sharp swords for legs (Sofia Boutella), you are clearly up to no good, and when Valentine does reveal his nefarious plot, it happens in one of the most stunning, horrifying, and strangely elegant scenes of wanton carnage ever committed to film.
This movie is a whole lot of fun, especially to be treasured by movie nerds (references galore) and action aficionados (a few of the sequences, while not revolutionary, will still leave you breathless).
Maybe the most fun of all is the cast. Egerton has the makings of a star with plenty of charm and presence to go around. I’m pretty sure Jackson lives for stuff like this as nobody in the movie has a better handle on the goofy/serious tone this film strikes than he does.
But it is Firth who really sells this thing. Few actors have done more playing buttoned-down dandies than Firth has, leading to the impression a movie like this would be beneath him. He plays off those expectations like a maestro and, if there is any justice in this world, he will laugh all the way to the bank.
A silver lining to the movie wasteland that is January and February is there are always one or two pleasant surprises that crop up. “Kingsman” gets to carry that torch for 2015 as the perfect cinematic concoction for that teenage boy in all of us.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language, and some sexual content.