Review – The Name’s Unwin… Eggsy Unwin (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”)

Cheekily borrowing from any James Bond thriller, but with a great deal of violence, is this oh-so very British import that gives us the tried ‘n’ true tale of the super-villain, bent on world annihilation and the suave, sophisticated English spy that ultimately defeats them. Only here, we also get a spy recruitment spin thrown in for good measure.
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Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a punk-ass 20-something kid who’s father was a secret Kingsman agent. The Kingsman’s, BTW, are a super-secret intelligent spy agency working undercover to protect the world, with code names that reflect the Knights of the Round Table. Their leader, Arthur (get it? Arthur?) played by Michael Caine, runs the outfit out of a posh suit shoppe in London.
 
After Eggsy gets into trouble with the law, he’s recruited by Galahad (Colin Firth) to join the organization. It seems that Eggsy’s dad saved Galahad (aka Harry Hart) and Galahad owes him one. The training at the Kingsman palatial fortress with seven other potential candidates is crazy intense with possible death on the line at each turn. Their trainer and overseer, Merlin (Mark Strong, finally playing a good guy!) keeps them on their toes, until one by one they are eliminated. Soon, only candidates Eggsy and Roxy (Sophie Cookson) are left, but there’s trouble afoot!
 

Megalomaniac and internet billionaire, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a pronounced lisp) has plans. . . diabolical plans! He kidnapped a professor (Mark Hamill in a cameo) and plans to use his formula to. . . wait for it. . . destroy mankind with violence! Valentine, who wears an array of sideways baseball caps and hates the sight of blood, gives away free cellphone and internet SIM chips to everyone on the planet. Why? When a special signal is generated, the chips will release an electronic wave causing everyone to kill each other and thereby cleanse the world. Valentine sees this as humanities only hope for global warming. Yeah, he’s nuts. He also has a lethal henchwoman (like Goldfinger’s OddJob) named Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) that has steel prosthetic legs with blades, no less.

Eggsy is washed out of Kingsman on a technicality, but after Galahad is taken out by Valentine and the agency has been compromised, its’ up to Eggsy, Roxy, and Merlin to infiltrate Valentine’s secret lair in the mountains and stop the outgoing transmission to the world’s cell and internet chips. Will they get this done in time before the omnipresent clock ticks down?  Will Eggsy learn what it is to be a true Kingsman agent? And why is the captive Swedish princess so horny?

Based on the comic book, The Secret Service by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, this stylized and very different spy caper isn’t what you’d expect from the general fare. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake), who also wrote the screenplay along with Jane Goldman, he has a penchant for slo-mo action sequences and a torrent of dead bodies, so get ready for some outraegous fight scenes that are as gruesome as they are wickedly choreographed. The bar scene is very cool and the church melee, with Lynyrd Skynard’s Freebird playing in the background, is as nasty as Tarantino’s Crazy 88’s samurai cacophony in Kill Bill, but with considerable less blood. Actually, I was surprised at just how little blood there was considering the epic amount of carnage shown. Go figure.

Then you have the very refined British acting here. Newcomer Egerton is surprising good and resembles a young Michael Caine towards the end with his horn-rimmed glasses and trim Kingsman suit. Firth is perfect as the spy’s spy and we finally get to see Strong in a role where he’s NOT evil for once. They even pay loving tribute to all things Bond in this movie, poking fun at it with characters spouting Bond plot points during their scenes.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

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When training someone to be a secret agent, it’s a good idea to make sure the trainer isn’t more interesting than the trainee. In what was supposed be a series of movies based on the pulp paperback series, The Destroyer, this single movie was a fun romp for it’s Broadway star, Joel Grey, who played a quirky Korean martial arts master simply named Chiun.

Fred Ward plays Sam Makin, a tough NYC cop and ex-Marine who, after an accident and thought to be dead, is unwillingly recruited to be an assassin for a secret United States organization called C.U.R.E. The recruitment (shades of being a M.I.B. agent) has Sam being “erased”: his death is faked, his face altered, and he is given a new identity as Remo Williams. He also has an attitude problem, which is only compounded by his trainer, the sarcastic and egocentric, Chiun.

“He moves like a pregnant yak!”, says Chiun. “But there is something there. . .” Chiun says upon seeing Remo’s Marine moves. The two roommates make for a true odd couple  with stoic Chiun teaching the tight-ass Remo the ways of the force, I mean, martial arts. The bizarre and sometimes odd training practices turn Remo to become a lean, mean, fighting machine and has the ability to dodge bullets (Matrix style) and run without leaving a footprint on the sand.

While Remo rooms with this weird little man (whose only vice is being hooked on watching daytime Soap operas), an assignment pops up: he is sent by Harold Smith (Wilford Brimley), CURE’s advisor to investigate a corrupt weapons procurement program within the US Army. It seems that a Major Rayner Fleming (Kate Mulgrew) has noticed that the new field weapons being used have a serious design flaw. But being a whistle-blower has it’s consequences!

With training still proceeding, Remo is sent to investigate the possible corruption within the Army hierarchy along with Fleming and discover more than they bargained for! There’s stunts galore and plenty of action (all with Fred Ward doing most of his own stunts, BTW) and, of course, Chiun always being there a step ahead to watch his pupil’s progression and giving him sarcastic instruction.

Written by Christopher Wood and directed by Guy Hamilton, both James Bond alumni, you can easily see the similarities in both cleverness and style in this Bond wanna-be film. Although the movie didn’t go over well at the box office, it was a nice effort and did win Joel Grey accolades for his portrayal of Chiun, which was the film’s one redeeming value. The fact that “The Adventure Begins” in the title was probably not a good idea (I guess the marketing boys got a bit rambunctious), this movie never spawned any sequels, there was a failed 1988 TV pilot with Jeffrey Meek as Remo and the great Roddy McDowell as Chiun. Suffice to say, it didn’t sell to any network, and you can watch it on YouTube to see why. It’s pretty bad.

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