A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kingsman: The Secret Service is a bold, though at times indulgently violent, action thriller that turns the James Bond genre on its head. It's funny, cheeky, and stylish, but it's also extremely brutal, with exploding heads, gory stabbings, shootings, and utter murderous mayhem (a scene of mass carnage inside a church is especially wince-inducing/stomach-turning). While the violence is presented in a stylized, almost cartoonish way, the sum total of it is likely to disturb some viewers. There's also swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," and some racial/homophobic slurs), sexual innuendo, a gratuitously tasteless scene with a naked female bottom, and drinking. But there's also a smattering of advice about how to be an honorable person in a dishonorable time.
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What's the story?
In KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, on London's Savile Row sits the Kingsman, a store not just for the fashion-forward but also for James Bonds-ian types seeking truth and justice in a seriously discreet, British way. A Kingsman, after all, is a spy of the highest order, part of a powerful organization unaffiliated with any government. Their representatives are named after King Arthur's knights, with Galahad, aka Harry Hart (Colin Firth), as their anchor. In 1997, a fellow Kingsman saved Galahad's life and died on the job. Forever indebted to his savior, Harry reaches out to the man's widow and offers a promise of help -- one that her son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), collects on 17 years later. Galahad thinks Eggsy has the skills to be come a Kinsgman, but first the rough-around-the-edges youth must prove his mettle, as a megalomaniac millionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) puts into action his psychopathic plan to cull the planet of people to save it.
Is it any good?
It's been a long while since a movie of this genre satisfied so much with wit and joy. For those who love film and all that is cinematic, Kingsman: The Secret Service is delightful fun. Director Matthew Vaughn's love for spy films and for this production is so unmistakable that you can’t help but be swept up in it. Every character, every frame, and nearly every line of dialogue is delivered with glee. It's brash and bold and full of cheek.
And it's no copycat. Nearly every spy thriller cliche is turned on its head here and milked for maximum amusement. (A sequence unveiling all the secret weaponry is a pleasure.) The plot is somewhat original, or at least interesting, and the stars are great. That said, a few points off for saddling the villainous (and enjoyable) Jackson with a lisp -- it's a cheap shot -- and for the constant (albeit cartoonish) violence that enjoys itself a little too much. The mayhem is over the top, and Vaughn relies too much on the slo-mo. And there's a crass joke at a princess' expense that feels like nothing more than sexist junk. But look past these issues, and you'll have a grand old time at the movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Does its over-the-top nature lessen its impact? Or does the sheer volume make it impossible to ignore? How do the consequences compare to those in movies with more realistic violence?
How does the film refresh the spy movie genre? What does it have in common with other spy movie? How does it differ?
Talk about why Harry truly wants to mentor Eggsy. And why is Eggsy willing to be mentored?
- In theaters: February 13, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2015
- Cast: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton
- Director: Matthew Vaughn
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
- Last updated: August 20, 2020
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