Back in 2014 Kingsman: The Secret Service hit the screens and became a bit of a cult smash. So much so that there was a sequel in 2017. It followed Eggsy, a lad from South London, as he learned that his father was part of a secret organization called The Kingsman and starts to train with them.
Both movies were directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, based on the comic book by Mark Millar. They are both pretty kick-ass action movies, well-directed and good fun.
This brings us to The King’s Man, a prequel to the above movies. The story is:
In the early years of the 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal plotting a war to wipe out millions.
I really liked the first two movies. I thought the second one wasn’t as good, but I have seen the original many times and I am thoroughly entertained by it. This new prequel… isn’t great.
It is directed by Vaughn again. He writes alongside Karl Gajdusek. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Harrison Dickinson, Djimon Housou, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, and Daniel Bruhl.
I won’t go too much in the story, because honestly, it’s all over the place. It is set just before World War I and a mastermind is trying to start a war between England, Germany, and Russia. We start with Orlando Oxford (Fiennes) and his son Conrad (Dickinson). Conrad’s mother was killed and a promise was made, by Orlando, to keep him safe.
Conrad is a good fighter thanks to training by their man-servant Shola (Hounsou) and he wants to help with the war effort. Orlando is dead against it and means to keep him out of harm’s way.
As events transpire, an assassination attempt is made on Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria which will start WWI. As the war eventually unfolds there are plots, bad guys, even Rasputin the Mad Monk.
I’ll start with the good. The cast is excellent. They are all great actors and everyone gives a good and compelling performance. I loved Ifans as Rasputin, he was really relishing the chance to get his teeth into playing the Mad Monk. He did it brilliantly.
Most of the direction was spot on, there are a few moments of dodgy CG, but nothing too bad. The fights are well done. There was one fight at the end of the second Kingsman movie which was pretty over the top lost all sense of realism. None of the fights in this new movie are like that. They are all really well directed.
However, the first piece of real action in The King’s Man is about 50 minutes in. Until this point the movie is about politics, the clothing shop and everyone talking about stopping the war. It was pretty disappointing for a Kingsman movie where you want some action.
The entire tone of the movie is all over the shop. There are moments of great action, moments of sadness in war, moments of tears and loss, and then moments of humour. The trouble is that none of these moments flow into each other very well and the movie feels really disjointed.
There are moments in The King’s Man that are meant to shock, basically, certain deaths, but they have all been done before such as Colin Firth in the first one. The deaths in this one aren’t really a shock, but one is really over the top and at this point the movie felt more like 1917, rather than a Kingsman action-comedy.
The other major issue I had with this was Conrad. Eggsy, from the first movie, was a Sarf London Geezer! You liked Eggsy. Sure he was a rogue, but he was a mate, a friend, we all know someone like him. Well, I do, but I’m in England, but he is someone we could all identify with.
Conrad, on the other hand, is a private college boy. He speaks with a posh accent and lives in a mansion. He is the complete opposite of Eggsy. If I had to choose, I would rather have Eggsy as a mate instead of Conrad the upper-class ponce. Since Conrad was a posh sod, I had no real interest in him. Who said classism is dead?
My overall view of The King’s Man is pretty low. It’s disjointed, tonally all over the place, and the story isn’t bad, but just not great. There are some good moments and some really well-choreographed fights, but overall I wouldn’t watch it again. I’ll just put on the original.