The Kingsman franchise – built off the back of Mark Millar’s Kingsman: The Secret Service – has lasted all these years because it’s something different from the typical British Spy action genre. The first entry in the franchise was something new for the American audience because of tongue-in-cheek satire and cool-looking action pieces. Director Matthew Vaughn’s previous Kingsman entries gave moviegoers a fun time at the cineplex. The King’s Man , however, pumps the brakes on that idea for a more serious tone.
It’s an interesting choice for the director’s third trip into this world but it seems like the guy might be running on fumes this time around.
The King’s Man stars Ralph Fiennes as the reluctant hero, Orlando Oxford, who would one day create the Kingsman Secret Service. Acting alongside Fiennes is Harris Dickinson as his son Conrad, Djimon Hounsou as Shola and rounding off the team is Gemma Arterton playing Polly. The four of them work together to prevent WWI and the possible fall of England caused by the evil-doing of a chaos-driven organization.
Pretty straight forward – but the story seems to lack enough interesting plot points to keep The King’s Man at a decent pace.
Don’t get me wrong, Vaughn is still able to make his action sequences stylish when the time calls for it – but the in-between parts drag the movie. There is a method in making a dramatic story engaging but most of The King’s Man can’t step enough away from the father and son drama between Orlando and Conrad. Conrad wants to serve his country in the war by joining the military and his father refuses to give him his blessing – and that goes on for 45-50 minutes.
I’m all for the father and son conflict but when the first and some of the second act’s driving point is “Daddy, let me go to war” – then the movie has a real problem.
There’s a level of commentary in the storyline background about the bickering immature rivalry between King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicolas that works well in the context of the story and could’ve elevated the movie. The King’s Man started to head down this intriguing path on the destructive nature of pointless wars and was using well-placed tongue-in-cheek comedy to get there. However, Vaughn’s and Karl Gajdusek’s style of humor devolved quickly and mistook cheap jokes as clever ones.
Despite some of these issues, the acting from the Fiennes, Hounsou, Arterton was a treat to watch. The three have great chemistry with one another on-screen, Fiennes flexes his award-winning acting chops, and Hounsou and Arterton’s help pick up some of The King’s Man must need humor. Yet, the gold-winning star for comedy goes to Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin.
Ifans hams up almost every scene he’s in an entertaining way that fits the mold of what the Kingsman series is known for but doesn’t stray too far into the realm of ridiculousness.
Another thing that made the movie passable – though barely – was Vaughn’s action directing. The guy has been finetuning his method to convey entertaining gun battles and fight sequences and the movie showcases it in all its glory. One strong contender for that idea is the fight choreography shown when Orlando, Conrad, and Shola take on Rasputin. Vaughn stays away from making choppy directing decisions in this scene and allows the camera to fully absorb the impressive and almost dance-like movement during the battle.
Though that’s a positive, these types of scenes are few and far between. The King’s Man could’ve used at least one more action set piece to help offset the poor pacing of the movie.
There’s news that more Kingsman movies are on the way, but it seems like it might be time for some new blood to jump in. Vaughn was going for a more serious tone this time around, but the script could’ve used a couple of rewrites to give it the emotional punch it was desperately seeking. The franchise needs to have a better balance of drama, comedy, action, and stay away from cheap jokes for it to stay fresh. There’s still somewhat of a fanbase out there for these movies but we’ll have to wait and see if moviegoers will stick around for those planned sequels.