The King's Man (2021)
“The King’s Man” stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, and Charles Dance. Released on December 22, 2021, the film has a Duke racing against time to save the world from a devious plot.
The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed films such as “Layer Cake”, “Stardust”, “Kick-Ass”, and “X-Men: First Class”. It is a prequel to the “Kingsman” film series, which is loosely based on the comic book series of the same name by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. A gentleman is always polite, precise, and, more importantly, humane. But, on the other hand, these people have their ways to become proper gentlemen, and they’re not as peaceful as they sound. This year’s holiday season brought us another R-rated action film for the older crowd to endure after their stressful Christmas shopping, and it’s a part of a franchise that took the spy genre to a whole new level. The “Kingsman” films from Matthew Vaughn have enjoyed their share of successes lately thanks to their cast and their combination of adult violence, comedy, and spy elements. I liked them for those same reasons, even “The Golden Circle”. Following the release of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” in 2017, fans have been patiently waiting for the return of Eggsy and Harry Hart in a brand new adventure. After four Kingsman-less years, the adult-rated franchise is finally back with its latest installment, although not in a way we expected. Before we see Taron Egerton suit up as Eggsy once again, Matthew Vaughn is taking us back in time to see how the secret service came to be, with a brand new cast and a World War setting to boot. While it wasn’t exactly what most fans wanted, there’s no doubt that we’re pretty ecstatic to return to this unique world filled with violent gentlemen and crazy gadgets. Does it serve as a long-awaited prequel that’s worth the wait, or are we better off waiting a couple more years for Eggsy’s return? Let’s find out.
The story occurs in the 1900s, many years before “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. The main focus is on Orlando (Fiennes), a British aristocrat and Duke of Oxford. Along with his servants Shola (Hounsou) and Polly (Arterton), Orlando created a secret spy network dedicated to protecting the world from violent conflicts before they occur. Joining alongside them is Orlando’s son, Conrad (Dickinson), who’s eager to fight for the country, but can’t due to Orlando’s overprotective nature. When a mysterious group led by the Shepherd plots to pit the German, Russian, and Britain empires against each other, Orlando and his team set out to prevent this war from happening. If you’ve watched the previous “Kingsman” installments, you’ll know what you’re going to get out of “The King’s Man”. It’s a highly stylized and violent spy film that’s as energetic as it is often humorous. With the film shifting its tone from the modern spy comedy genre to a war thriller, it offered a refreshing take on the franchise that also delivered what we expect from a film about gentlemen spies. While this new direction might not impress every fan of the film series, it’s still an exciting and stylish action thriller that provides elegance in action filmmaking over substance. Regarding its story, I would have to say that this is the weakest installment in the adult-rated franchise so far. “The King’s Man” had an anti-war plot that featured a father-son relationship and a basic globe-trotting adventure to prevent a deadly conflict. When the story isn’t focused on taking specific elements too seriously, it becomes a fun and frenetic popcorn ride that wasn’t afraid to embrace its identity. Although, it did come with the cost of providing a couple of disappointing outcomes, mainly the relationship between Orlando and Conrad. Now, it’s not to say that they heavily affected my experience as a whole since they did well in subverting my expectations regarding its formula. But I will say that one of the film’s surprises made that specific plot element somehow pointless. At least, in my eyes. Along with its rough pacing in the first act and inability to recapture lightning in the bottle, the story in “The King’s Man” wasn’t gentlemanly enough to join the high rankings. However, as a source of entertainment, it’s an enjoyable origin film that centers on the organization’s birth and an intriguing vision of historical events. As for the cast and characters, I thought they were fine enough to take over spy duties for Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. Fiennes, Arterton, and Hounsou managed to deliver some worthy performances as Orlando, Polly, and Shola, respectively. Dickinson provided an okay presence as Conrad, even though his performance was lacking in depth during a couple of scenes. The main highlight of the cast was Rhys Ifans, who offered a unique and gleefully bizarre take on Grigori Rasputin. The franchise usually has specific characters that are just as kinetically insane as the violence, and Rasputin happens to be an example of that. I still think Samuel L. Jackson’s Richmond Valentine from “The Secret Service” is tough to beat, but this demented version of the Russian mystic came pretty close. Another thing that I enjoyed was its style, particularly in its action scenes. When it comes to the “Kingsman” films, no director handles its unique presentation better than Matthew Vaughn himself. From its creative panning shots to the slo-mo sequences that rival Zack Snyder’s filmmaking vision, Vaughn showcased that the film’s impactful thrills aren’t just from the combat but also the cinematography. This alone proves that the filmmaker is still the perfect choice to helm a franchise like this. The action sequences were also immensely entertaining, thanks to its swift choreography and Vaughn’s direction. Unfortunately, they’re not as over-the-top and brutal as the previous films. So if you’re hoping for it to have something that rivals the church sequence from “The Secret Service”, I’m sorry to say that you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied with the result. However, I would admittedly say that “The King’s Man” should please people who weren’t fond of the graphic violence from the first two movies. The action may not have many kills that deserve the R-rating, but that doesn’t make it even less fun. Plus, it won’t make specific people sick to their stomachs, so I’m going to call that a win.
Overall, “The King’s Man” may not have all of the qualities to be a perfect gentleman, but it has enough style and action to stand alongside its previous movies. Aside from its disappointing plot elements and pacing, the film is a diverting piece of escapism that favors presentation over substance in the best way. With its suitable cast, Vaughn’s direction, and entertaining action scenes, the film is another installment that shows that manners maketh man. If you enjoyed the previous “Kingsman” movies, the film is worth checking out this holiday season.
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