Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Really Wanted To Like Kingsmen...

I truly wanted to like Kingsmen. Adapted from a comic by writer Mark Millar (Kickass, Civil War) and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kickass, X-Men: First Class) it looked like the comic book action flick I've been dying for this winter. True, the movie had gadgets, eccentric villains, an unlikely hero and a secret society... but when it all came together not only did it fall flat, it made me feel gross for watching it.
Why do all the "best" assassins have a thigh gap these days...

In its best moments, Kingsmen reminds you what it means to be a real gentleman, shows class injustice through a series of worst case scenarios and then serves to prove secret agents are the good guys because they care about the little people. Despite this, I just cannot shake what I found problematic and sickening about the film, because at its worst the movie lacks restraint, relishes in violent ignorance, promotes sexism and has a convoluted plot.

Several of my favorite movies ever made are absurdly violent. Kill Bill, Battle Royale, Clockwork Orange, Fight Club, 300. But humor in the midst of such violence is an art, and not one Kingsmen does well. There are movies that have achieved this, think Bad Boys, Hot Fuzz, Big Trouble in Little China. However in the case of Kingsmen, the overt and constant level of blood and gore mixed with colored smoke and sparklers leaves me hollow. By all rights, Eggsy is a solid main character. He's a diamond in the rough, plucked out of obscurity by a gentleman patron who fought with his father. These are solid action movie beginnings, but I never got excited by Eggsy's performance in the spy program. The filmmakers failed to make me feel for him... and this gave way to disillusionment with the Kingsmen agency as a whole - and how they operate.

There is a plot by a wealthy and eccentric meglomaniac to activate an electronic signal that will switch off every human's ability to inhibit violent thought thus turning them into pseudo rage-zombies. Through several failures and oversights on the part of the Kingsmen this plot proceeds leading to several minutes of extreme violence. Seconds before the doomsday device is set off the camera focuses on Eggsey's best friends, and his mother and little sister - reminding us they will all die if the villian played  by Samuel L. Jackson presses the doomsday button. We care for them, and then we are forced to watch as these characters plus nameless millions attempt to tear each other limb from limb with whatever they can find. Overhead shot after overhead shot shows the hordes of angry men, women and children attack and claw and kill from afar. It was unnecessary and did nothing to endeer me to the Kingsmen agency, who at this moment in the movie are joking and attempting a comedic take at James Bond antics.

The difference between James Bond and the Kingsmen is in a James Bond movie, you never see blood and the villains never win. Bond movies can be slow and tedious and I appreciate Kingsmen's attempt at creating an explosion filled romp through the genre. However, the violent and horrific deaths in addition to the large body count due to both good guy and bad guy actions, made me feel sick and hate the Kingsmen. I won't root for a "good guy" who just wasted time talking to a pretty girl when he should be saving the world. I won't cheer for the team that just exploded a bunch of world leaders' heads... even if they were the bad guys. Am I supposed to cheer while Obama's head explodes into fireworks? Watch the violent murder of enough people get glorified and you start to wonder... why did they do that?


Maybe the filmmakers are geniuses and wanted audiences to feel the Kingsmen organization was to be questioned.  Perhaps the point was for viewers to leave feeling the way I did - uneasy at the celebration a clear abuse of power. Perhaps the film's purpose was to remind us that if we let people have too much money, too many gadgets, give away too much of our freedom bad things happen.  Or maybe the film was a poor adaptation of yet another Mark Millar comic. I enjoy a dumb action movie as much as anyone, but I don't know what type of story they wanted to tell with Kingsmen. If it was a Spy thriller, it was too violent. If it was a hero's journey I didn't care about the hero. If it was a dumb action movie, it was half-assed. The resulting film is a crass mix of exploding heads, gadgets, booze and civilian deaths.
"Oh, Hey baby wanna ruin a movie in a single scene?"

Feminist Bonus:

There is one final enraging detail of Kingsman. Towards the second act there is a Nordic princess who is imprisoned by the villain for not going along with his evil plan. He says she is too useful to kill... forgets about her for the remainder of the film. This woman sits alone, yelling in a cell beside a dozen other debutantes and diplomats for weeks. And then one day our shining hero, Eggsy comes mid battle and hears her cries. Opening the viewing door to her cell he is taken by her beauty and asks for a kiss if he can free her. She gamely promises to give him more than a kiss if he gets her out. Eggsy has to go stop the villain, so she promises him "sex in the asshole" to do his job and save the world.

This woman is imprisoned in a jail cell, likely malnourished and dehydrated (not to mention shower-less). This non-character is abused just to make sure Eggsy gets some ass-action at the end of the film. I got the distinct impression we were supposed to cheer for him getting to stick it in there. Now that's just gross. There is nothing wrong with butt sex, the part I'm against is where a character only serves to give it to a questionable hero she doesn't even know. Yeah, I'm judging this script. I could be reading too much into it, but I got a little sick to my stomach seeing that level of sexual entitlement pushed as an ending on screen. I'm not a fan of this kind of "dude, bro" cinema. It is unnecessary, and should stop. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write an action script where the girl saves the guy and the final scene is her sticking a dildo up his arse... come on, Hollywood you're down, right?

 Rose Marie Fox lives with her pet rabbit monster in sunny Los Angeles. She enjoys improv comedy, making things, cosplay and talking peoples' ears off. Don't feed her after midnight.

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