“Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a fun little movie that got by mashing up action movie lunacy with British gentility. Any movie that turns Colin Firth into an action hero is certainly not taking itself too seriously.
The sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” was more of the same and now we have a prequel in “The King’s Man” which takes us all the way back to the origins of this top-secret British intelligence agency.
Writer/director Matthew Vaughn has been at the helm of all three of these movies and his off-beat sense of humor and gonzo action sensibilities have served him well each time, as long as you don’t let yourself think too much about it.
This origin story takes place during World War I where Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a retired officer and member of the British aristocracy, wants nothing more than to shield his adult son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from the horrors of war.
To that end, he enlists the help of his more-than-meets-the-eye domestic staff made up of crack-shot nanny Polly (Gemma Arterton) and battle-tested valet Shola (Djimon Honsou).
Opposing Orlando is a secret cabal of bad guys looking to fan the flames of war and bring Europe to its knees. The group has high-level advisers whispering bad advice to cousins Kaiser Wilhelm, Czar Nicholas and King George (all played by Tom Hollander employing varying degrees of accents and facial hair.)
The most formidable of these baddies is Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and his confrontation with Orlando and his team is as outrageously over the top as one has come to expect from these movies.
“The King’s Man” is historically accurate to a surprising degree as Vaughn does an impressive job of laying out the political climate in Europe during the war and he employs real-life events like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Zimmerman Telegram as key plot points. Also, one brief time-lapse scene shows the idyllic French countryside being transformed into bombed out No Man’s Land in one of the best illustrations I’ve ever seen of how the war changed the physical shape of the European landscape.
Does this movie have problems? You bet it does! It’s way too long and there are some stretches where it takes itself a little too seriously. But Fiennes is dependably great and as long as the action and thrills are in the foreground, “The King’s Man” is all the silly fun you’ve come to expect from this series.
And with things set up nicely for a prequel sequel, you can expect the king’s men to be hard at work into the future.
“The King’s Man” is rated R for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language and some sexual material.