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The King's Man
2021, Action/Adventure, 2h 11m
What to know
Ralph Fiennes' solid central performance in The King's Man is done dirty by this tonally confused prequel's descent into action thriller tedium. Read critic reviews
The King's Man might be a little too long, but it takes the franchise in a fresh direction without losing any of the action fans are looking for. Read audience reviews
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The king's man videos, the king's man photos.
As a collection of history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them. Discover the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency in "The King's Man."
Rating: R (Some Sexual Material|Language|Strong/Bloody Violence)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Original Language: English
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Producer: Matthew Vaughn , David Reid , Adam Bohling
Writer: Matthew Vaughn , Karl Gajdusek
Release Date (Theaters): Dec 22, 2021 wide
Release Date (Streaming): Feb 18, 2022
Box Office (Gross USA): $37.2M
Runtime: 2h 11m
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Production Co: Marv Studios
Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos
Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)
Cast & Crew
King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas
Erik Jan Hanussen
United States Ambassador
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Critic Reviews for The King's Man
Audience reviews for the king's man.
The King's Man, set as a prequel to the Kingsman franchise, is compelling, exceptional, and enjoyable, thanks to the sterling acting chops of Ralph Fiennes. Unlike the previous fare of tightly woven action-packed spy parodies that Kingsman fans are familiar with, this prequel shifts gears into a heavier tone and theme that is grimmer and darker. This shift in tone combined with the need for greater character development unfortunately slows down the build-up of the story. The grief and grimness in the tone exposes an uncomfortable balancing act needed to bring coherence to the signature comedic heart of this franchise. The story builds around Fiennes as the pacifist protagonist, an English gentleman who walks the corridors of power, while at the same time, has a power network of household maids, butlers and maids – his invisible secret service quite capable of breaking even the best of secret codes – a satirical best! We get served a free European history lesson as Vaughn creatively and cleverly crafts the tale around key historical figures of World War 1, complete with a buffet of antagonists: from the likes of Rasputin to even Matahari: one too many and too one-dimensional for my liking. Daniel Bruhl's talents were underutilised, and I hope he will return for a meatier role in the next one! My only quibble is with the action sequences that needed some serious editing and the length of the film that tested my patience. Despite the uneven flow, The King's Man ranks as my no. 2 favourite of Michael Vaughn's "The Kingsman" universe: for being the heart of soul of this franchise. Go watch it, and you'll know what I mean.
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‘The King’s Man’ Review: Suiting Up and Shooting Down
This prequel to the “Kingsman” series presents the confusing origin story of the elite British spy agency, founded by Ralph Fiennes (naturally).
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By Jeannette Catsoulis
Any movie that lists “Rasputin dance choreographer” in the credits deserves at least a look. And, to be fair, “The King’s Man” — a prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s jacked-up series about elite British spies headquartered in Savile Row — has more than a gyrating monk up its impeccably tailored sleeve.
Mainly, it has Ralph Fiennes to ensure that the center holds. As Orlando, Duke of Oxford and the spy agency’s founder, Fiennes might read more cuddly than studly, but he lends a surprising gravitas to this flibbertigibbet feature. Try doing that when you’re being head-butted by an angry goat.
Set during World War I, as Orlando and his allies race to prevent a nefarious cabal from erasing Europe’s ruling class, “The King’s Man” leads us through a dense thicket of violence to present the origin story of an agency whose raison d’être, we are told, is world peace. (A mission apparently concealed from the characters in the two previous films.) International skulduggery fills the frame, the hopelessly convoluted screenplay (by Vaughn and Karl Gajdusek) swerving from loony (a mountain lair guarded by the aforementioned livestock) to reverent (an impressive battlefield rescue, realized without digital assistance).
Buffering the gobsmacking action sequences, Ben Davis’s stately, wide-screen images allow our eyes to refocus. Gusto performances, including Gemma Arterton as a nanny running a secret network of servant-spies, help atone for the plot’s nuttiness. The franchise’s always-simmering homoeroticism, though, boils over whenever Rasputin (an ecstatically demonic Rhys Ifans) is around.
“Take your trousers off and sit down,” he commands Orlando, before licking a battle wound on the aristocrat’s thigh. On the evidence of Fiennes’s face, the Duke’s only desire at that moment is for a strong cup of tea.
The King’s Man R for leg licking, opium drinking and dirty dancing. Running time: 2 hours 11 minutes. In theaters.
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The King’s Man buttons up a franchise bent on mayhem
The Kingsman prequel pairs outlandish action with serious spy drama
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So many directors seem either trapped in the comics-to-movies pipeline or burnt out by it. Plenty of filmmakers have directed game-changing, career-making superhero pictures (Tim Burton, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon), only to step back after a less well-received sequel, while others who started small (Jon Watts, James Gunn) don’t seem able or interested enough to find their way back to more intimate projects. Something about The King’s Man director Matthew Vaughn, though, gives off the impression that he truly loves making comic book films, like a Zack Snyder unburdened by a heavy quasi-mythological vision.
The King’s Man marks Vaughn’s third foray into a comic book world (following Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class ), but in particular, he appears to love his James Bond-ish half-spoofs based on the comics by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. How else to explain Vaugn directing a prequel to the first two Kingsman adventures, both of which he also directed? This is the type of project often fobbed off to an editor or visual effects supervisor, someone looking for a big-budget break in their burgeoning directorial career. Instead, Vaughn clocks in happily. If anyone is going to supervise the series’ shift into a surprisingly serious-minded Dad Movie, it’s going to be Vaughn himself.
That is, surprisingly, what The King’s Man is going for: a classier and more Dad-friendly World War I action movie, with frequent but not constant tastes of the old Kingsman ultraviolence. The brash-young-man-and-proper-older-badass dynamic that existed between Taron Egerton and Colin Firth in the earlier films has been flipped into a father-son story about Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), still reeling from the death of his wife, desperately hoping that his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) will avoid jumping into the action as geopolitical tensions escalate and Britain’s entry into World War I looms. The story is never fully passed along to the younger character; this really is Fiennes’ movie all the way, and probably more interesting for it.
Orlando is basically a proto-Kingsman, to the point where the eventual and prequel-required formulation of this independent “secret service” doesn’t have much impact. After all, Orlando is already consorting with Shola (Djimon Hounsou, mainstay of nearly all current film franchises) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), who moonlight as members of his large estate’s staff while working as industrious spies with Mission: Impossible -style specialities and weaknesses. In other words, they’re domestic workers in more ways than one.
That’s a cute idea that also speaks to the way The King’s Man desperately wants to mitigate its aristocratic tendencies while also indulging them. Conrad is told from a young age that “it’s important that people of privilege lead by example, and Orlando’s staff are super-capable heroes. But the movie still revels in his supposed equals happily calling him “your grace.” It’s an apologetically attractive look at colonialism that oddly has Fiennes recalling his character from 1998’s TV adaptation The Avengers (and agreeably weird curiosity, for what it’s worth). In the years since then, Fiennes has become an actor who seems incapable of delivering anything short of full commitment to his performances, a quality put to the test by this movie demanding he work with a straight face throughout.
This more serious business does offer a respite from the gleeful did-I-offend-you-bruv tone of the earlier movies; The King’s Man is Vaughn’s least smirky movie since X-Men: First Class , and barely recognizable as part of the Mark Millar Extended Universe. The remnants of the older movies are mostly the handful of elaborate and still extremely violent action sequences, and the film’s cartoon version of real history, which involves Tom Hollander triple-cast as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand; and Rasputin (Rhs Ifans), one of the bad guy’s co-conspirators and subject of a setpiece that involves attempting to feed him a poisoned cake. Naturally, things get a bit more physical.
The action sequences, including the skirmish with Rasputin, are still done up in classic Kingsman style: a springy virtual-looking camera zipping around the amped-up fights, making sure to take notice of any and all excessive gore. The big climax feels a bit less sensationalized and more mission-driven than Vaughn’s previous entries — again recalling his X-Men installment, however slightly — with fewer (though not zero) outlandish gadgets. Considering the first Kingsma n had Sofia Boutella with knife-legs, Gemma Arterton’s sharpshooting feels almost restrained.
The film’s cartoony bits still stick out, because the journey to the line “time to kill Rasputin” (and the detour away from it; Rasputin ultimately isn’t the movie’s main event) is surprisingly lengthy, as Orlando and Conrad clash over what kind of sacrifices should be expected or volunteered by young men for their country. (This was hinted at in the earlier movies when the origin of the Kingsman organization is explained.) Is this the film series equipped to answer or even ask these questions? Is it worth all of the shifts and accommodations just to make a Kingsman prequel in a slightly different register? This is still a movie about a madman manipulating world events to vengefully pit Germany against England, where the bad guy’s face is concealed to lead up to a big reveal, despite having characterization that’s pretty much limited to “Scottish.”
Still, the tension between Vaughn’s designs on making a more old-fashioned, serious-minded war/spy picture and the usual cheeky battle royale makes The King’s Man more memorable than its predecessor Kingsman: The Golden Circle , a middling retread. Maybe Vaughn really does want to make a whole universe of movies out of a concept that previously seemed one-note. It’s not an especially noble or artistically successful pursuit, but if it keeps him out of trouble and lets the perpetually underserved Gemma Arterton fire off a few rounds, who are we to stop him?
The King's Man Review
The third entry into the franchise is the most unhinged yet..
This is a spoiler-free early review of The King's Man, which hits theaters on Dec. 22.
It feels like a near impossible feat to review The King's Man, director Matthew Vaughn's third entry into his comic book spy franchise. The wildly overstuffed and often delightfully unhinged film – that is, in reality, two films in one – feels almost review proof. A combination of the film's many tonal and narrative contradictions along with its wildly unexpected moments create a situation where it's hard to quantify how it works as a whole.
So what can we say about The King's Man? It acts as a sprawling prequel to The Kingsman series, attempting to build out the world and origins of the independent spy agency. Its impressive ensemble cast is led by Ralph Fiennes in a turn equally overtly sombre and broadly humorous. As Shola, Djimon Hounsou continues his career as the absolute best thing in any comic-book movie. Let's be honest, are you even adapting a sequential story nowadays if Hounsou is not at the top of your casting director's list?? Gemma Arterton brings a perfectly crude edge as Polly, a foul-mouthed housekeeper turned secret agent. And then there's Rhys Ifans in a career best – and career deranged – turn as Rasputin. He's unbelievable.
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As the world looks towards World War I, The King's Man begins. The story follows Fiennes' Duke of Oxford, who becomes a pacifist after a family tragedy. That thread is key, as it represents the half of the film which will likely be the most challenging for viewers. Whereas the previous Kingsman movies have been action-packed comedies that lean into the salacious nature of James Bond and the slick spy franchises that have inspired it, this is a very different beast. More than half of the runtime is concerned with the nature of war, the importance of peace, and the Duke of Oxford's struggle with his son's quest to fight for his country. While those could be interesting things to explore, the film barely has anything new to say on those matters. These segments mostly serve only in slowing the wildly paced secondary plot, which is far more engaging and delivers some truly stunning action.
That action – coordinated by a massive stunt team including Bradley James Allan, Allen Jo, Emma Ennis, Wayne Dalglish, and many, many more – is easily the movie's highlight. When these epic fight scenes begin, you lose yourself in the midst of some of the most exciting cinematic showcases of stunt work in years. A Russian set piece featuring Ifans (doubled by Tom Hatt), Hounsou (doubled by Cali Nelle), and Fiennes (doubled by Mark Faulkner) is over ten minutes of action magic. Balletic, frantic, beautiful, and violent, there's so much here that will likely be studied for years... if it doesn't get lost in the runtime and multiple other plotlines. It's not a singular moment either; there are enough action standouts here that you have to wonder whether there's a slicker 90-minute cut of the film that focuses solely on the brilliant choreography and less on the meandering meaning of it all. And it's that chaotic juxtaposition that'll likely split audiences down the middle.
While the Duke has his pacifist tendencies, he's also in the midst of trying to find a way to serve his country regardless. That's one of the many strange contradictions in this film: someone can be a pacifist while still wanting to support the country that's killing millions. This is a movie about the founding of the Kingsman agency, so it's not a spoiler to explain that we get an insight into their beginnings here. Vaughn does his best to subvert the pulp stories that he's pulling from; Hounsou plays a man servant and Arterton plays a housekeeper, but they're both revealed to be much more. Fiennes' Duke occasionally criticises the treatment of people under the boot of the British government. It's another surface-level aspect, though, rather than being something deeper.
While it might not want to be, this is very much your father's Kingsman movie. In fact, it might be the most dad movie ever to dad movie. Not only is this a father and son story at its heart, this is the kind of tale that's been tailored to the dad audience. It's an action-packed historical piece that plays with ideas of masculinity while sticking to pulp tropes that are recognizable. Though there's tragedy afoot, a lot of the film plays like a wish fulfillment fantasy for dads of a certain age and lifestyle. So really, the biggest mystery of The King's Man is why it's not being released on Father's Day.
That duelling battle between old and new is at the heart of The King's Man. Not just in the sense of Vaughn trying to redefine his franchise or Fiennes and his on-screen son, Conrad (Harris Dickinson), but also in the concept of redefining what an intelligence agency can be. In that way, The King's Man works as a sort of utopian fantasy where all classes and kinds of people can work together for a perceived greater good. But lower-class people still work for the aristocracy and the agency is still called The King's Man, so that gives you an idea of how independent or different it really is.
If you can look past those glaring issues and want some rip-roaring pulpy fun, then you might find a new favorite in Vaughn's third movie. It erases much of the weird sexual humor of the first two, replacing them with out-there action and a lot of father/son drama. Those tonal shifts are hard to swallow and add to the often unhinged nature of the film. While we don't want to get into spoiler territory, it's hard to see the thematic connection between Rasputin furiously tonguing a wound while being seduced and the horrors of WWI, which are brutally shown in the overlong second act.
Which of the two Kingsman movies do you prefer?
The notion and motives of the villains leave a nasty aftertaste too. The King's Man too easily generalizes when it comes to its idea of who's evil and who's good, especially seeing as the film is aiming to fit into actual historical events and change them. Also, as a comic book fan, there's a contemporary real-life aspect added to the story's main villain that's so distracting and hilarious that once you notice it, it's impossible to not focus on it. Was this apparent slight intentional? It sure seems that way, and it's just one more thing that throws the film in another strange direction. Even at its wildest, though, it’s both grounded and elevated by its brilliant cast. Hounsou and Arterton shine, and Fiennes as well when he's alongside them. Aaron Taylor Johnson also has a small role so good that it'll leave you wishing it was bigger. Sadly, the key role of the Duke's son Conrad is very much a forgettable one, which is a big problem considering it's supposed to be the emotional heart of the story.
The ambitious, strange, and overstuffed The King’s Man really does have magic woven in. There are standout moments that, on their own, deserve a 9/10. The action is stunning. Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, and Ralph Fiennes are great. The writing is at times laugh out loud funny. But it also often drags, gets confused with its own logic and politics, and struggles to make any clear statements on the things it takes so much time and effort to explore. For that reason, this is an undoubtedly divisive flick even for this reviewer.
In This Article
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‘The King’s Man’ Review: Ralph Fiennes in a Serviceable Prequel to the Over-the-Top Gentleman Action Spy Series
Weaving in and out of WWI, the third "Kingsman" film is as fancifully schlocky as its predecessors.
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In the most outlandish scene in “The King’s Man” — if not the strangest scene of the year — Orlando Oxford ( Ralph Fiennes ), a sneaky aristocrat who will go on to form the first British secret-service agency (and is already acting like a rogue spy), shows up for a meeting with Grigori Rasputin, the fevered mystic and demonic holy man of Imperial Russia, played by Rhys Ifans as if he were starring in a historical thriller directed by Mel Brooks.
It’s the eve of World War I, and Orlando intends to exploit Rasputin’s considerable sway over the Tsar to convince Russia to enter the war. Hidden under Christlike hair and a fuzzy black beard, eyes ablaze with eroticized cunning, his Draculoid Row- shun accent dripping with sociopathic scorn, Ifans’ Rasputin enters a gilded party like a rock star draped with goth girls. At dinner, he explains to Orlando that he can heal his bum leg; he does so by taking him to a private chamber and lasciviously licking the battle wound on his thigh. The mad monk then stuffs a British almond cake in his mouth in two bites, vomits the whole thing up (suspecting that it’s been poisoned), and proceeds to face off against Orlando and his son, Conrad (Harris Dickinson), in a leaping altercation choreographed — of course! — to The 1812 Overture. It’s a gonzo action scene, but if you told me it was the new Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade commercial, I’d believe you.
Not all of “The King’s Man” is that defiantly nutzoid. The movie, the third in Matthew Vaughn ’s popular “Kingsman” series (drawn from the comic books of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons), is a prequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2015) and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (2017). Since this one is set in an earlier period, with the decorous Ralph Fiennes now in charge (Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Samuel. L Jackson, Michael Caine, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum have all left the Savile Row building), it flirts, at moments, with having a more restrained tone, as if it were the “Masterpiece Theatre” chapter of the series. The film oscillates, rather awkwardly, between grandiose cartoon heroics and a kind of dutiful flatness. Fiennes, as a widower (we see his wife killed during the Boer War in the movie’s prologue), plays his character totally straight, which means that we’re supposed to be caught up in the drama of the fearfully overprotective attitude he has toward his adult son. But the film’s emotional center is basically a cream filling.
And it’s not like restraint rules the day. “The King’s Man” presents the eruption of World War I as the playing out of a childhood ego spat between King George, the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm, and the Russian leader Tsar Nicholas, all of whom are played by Tom Hollander. Rasputin, in the midst of keeping the Tsar and his wife hooked on opium, belongs to a secret cabal of criminals who meet on the flat top of a giant stone mountain, where their fearless leader, who we see only from the back of his bald head, gnashes away in a Scottish brogue as he seethes for world domination.
The “Kingsman” films may be the quintessential action mashup movies that put old and new genres into the Mixmaster, playing a high-intensity schlock game of slice-and-dice. Their basic premise — an elite club of British spies, operating independently of the government — is obviously an airy knockoff of the Bond mystique. But the fact that the Kingsman organization has, as its headquarters, a bespoke shop on Savile Row, with ancient tailors in the front room, is the kind of fanciful cornball setup that takes one back to the ’60s — to the opening credits of “Get Smart” and the Batcave, to the satirically slashing bowler-hat civility of “The Avengers.” The “Kingsman” films unfold in a stiff-upper-lip British demimonde where even the most lethal espionage players are “gentlemen.”
At the same time, they’re insanely balletic forward-thinking action films. The director, Matthew Vaughn, who in 2004 made “Layer Cake” (a movie sharp enough to have won Daniel Craig the role of 007), looked for a while like he might be a true suspense-film artist, but he turned out to be a glibly talented purveyor of hyperbolic stylish kinetics. He’s good at it, but the “Kingsman” films are demonstrations of how even a grounded genre can now be whipped into fantasy razzmatazz. “The King’s Man” is an origin story that feels like a reboot, and though no one in it possesses unearthly powers, the film’s underlying model is still the team-superhero movie.
The film weaves in and out of historical events like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the spark that lit WWI; in this film it’s the result of a conspiracy launched by that villainous cabal. Vaughn turns it into a decent set piece, and when our heroes finally approach the stone mountain, with Fiennes’ Oxford parachuting solo out of a propeller plane, Vaughn’s staging is dizzyingly effective. But this is still a movie in which the showdown between good and evil turns on the vengeance taken by a very angry goat.
Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, Dec. 6, 2021. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 131 MIN.
- Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 20th Century Studios release of a Marv Studios production. Producers: Matthew Vaughn, David Reid, Adam Bohling. Executive producers: Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Stephen Marks, Claudia Vaughn, Ralph Fiennes.
- Crew: Director: Matthew Vaughn. Screenplay: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek. Camera: Ben Davis. Editors: Jason Ballantine, Robert Hall. Music: Dominic Lewis, Matthew Margeson.
- With: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickson, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Charles Dance, Daniel Brühl, Stanley Tucci.
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The King’s Man Review
17 Dec 2021
The King’s Man
A prequel is generally the lazy option for the third part in a franchise, cobbling together a story of where it all began rather than opting for the more complex task of deciding where it goes next. But Matthew Vaughn ’s Kingsman origin story certainly can’t be accused of being lazy. It’s imaginative to a fault, crammed with countless ideas — some inspired, some underworked, and quite a few that should have been binned.
It makes sense for the Kingsman series, about a group of stiff-upper-lipped secret agents, to have its origins in a time when upper lips were at their stiffest: the 1910s, in the lead-up to World War I. Orlando, Duke of Oxford ( Ralph Fiennes ), is a war hero who can no longer stomach war. He and his wife Emily ( Alexandra Maria Lara ) are dedicated to helping victims of conflict. When Emily is killed in crossfire in a visit to a British concentration camp in South Africa during the Boer War, Oxford’s pacifist stance is cemented. He vows his son will never be harmed fighting someone else’s battles. This does not sit well with said son, Conrad ( Harris Dickinson ), especially when World War I dawns and he’s forbidden from doing what he considers his duty to his country. His father tries to show him there is another way to do your duty: by preventing war from happening.
Now, from here it all gets rather bonkers. The War, you see, is not merely down to world leaders craving power. It’s actually the masterplan of a shadowy, SPECTRE-like organisation, headed by a very angry, unseen Scottish man, like Blofeld written by Irvine Welsh, who really, really hates the English and employs some of history’s most baroque villains — Rasputin, Mata Hari, Lenin — to help him bring down his enemy. (Stay with us, we’re nearly there.) Oxford has his own secret mini gang: his manservant, Shola ( Djimon Hounsou ), and Polly ( Gemma Arterton ), a gun-toting housekeeper who’s Mary Poppins meets Wyatt Earp. They’re trusted by England’s highest powers to secretly stop the Scotsman’s plan succeeding.
The combo of larky spy-romp, father-son drama, and revisionist history is too much for Vaughn to balance and the film struggles to find a consistent tone.
There are lots of clever, fun thoughts at play here. The way Vaughn connects figures from history with his fictional heroes works, albeit in a complicated way. It takes a huge amount of explanation, which means the first hour involves many scenes of men in rooms clarifying things. Once it gets to the actual war-foiling, there are tremendously enjoyable scenes, none more so than a mission to dispatch Rasputin, who is controlling the Russian Tsar. As played, to the hilt, by Rhys Ifans , Rasputin is a hard-drinking, sword-fighting, thigh-licking, improbable-accent-having riot. This section has an inventive, camp energy that’s absent from much of the rest of the movie. The combo of larky spy-romp, father-son drama, and revisionist history is too much for Vaughn to balance and the film struggles to find a consistent tone. It also must be said that while Vaughn’s real-world angle is sort of ingenious, there’s something profoundly distasteful about rewriting World War I into a comedy squabble, particularly as he reaches for poignant drama with his scenes on the actual battlefield. It adds a sour taste that’s hard to ignore, especially in a misjudged coda.
Casting across the board is inspired, even when the actors are underused. Hounsou and Arterton are given no life beyond serving their employer, but they work hard to rustle up some personality. Dickinson does well with a rather earnest role, not gifted the humour that gave Taron Egerton a star-making opportunity in the first film. It’s an interesting choice to cast Fiennes as an action star. A man who always looks like he knows something you don’t, Fiennes is fully believable as somebody who could think his way out of any situation. The action — at one point Fiennes plummets from a plane, climbs a mountain, has a brief fight with a goat, then charges straight into a lengthy shootout, all without pausing for a breather — is well done, but not needed. Fiennes shows earlier in the film he can entertainingly outfox a villain by doing nothing more strenuous than taking his trousers off.
It’s a much better film than The Golden Circle , and the glut of ideas means a fun moment is never far away, but if Vaughn wanted to go back in time, it’s a shame he didn’t go back to the cleaner plotting and lighter tone of the first film.
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‘The King’s Man’ Review
The first two Kingsman movies— Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle —are best described as romps. Yes, they’re spy spoofs, but they’re spoofs of the sillier Bond movies, a harder-edged Austin Powers with more visual verve. High-octane and highly stylized, the clash between crass violence and a professed (and admirable) dedication to the manners that maketh men was amusingly discordant. Whatever else was going on, director Matthew Vaughn was clearly having fun.
You get the sense watching The King’s Man that Vaughn understands the charnel house of the First World War is no place for a romp. More subdued and less action-packed than its predecessors, The King’s Man undoubtedly has its moments of almost-silly spectacle. But this is a more somber affair, a tone set in the early moments when Orlando, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), is visiting a concentration camp of Boers run by the British Army.
Oxford is there on behalf of the Red Cross with his wife Emily (Alexandra Maria Lara), his servant Shola (Djimon Hounsou), and his young son Conrad (Alexander Shaw in these early scenes). Emily is shot by a Boer sniper while trying to deliver supplies, the first of many indignities that the pacifistic Oxford must suffer en route to forming the Kingsman Agency, and apologies if this is a spoiler, but if you don’t know that this is a prequel showing us the formation of the group featured in the first two movies, well, why are you even reading this review?
Flash forward 12 years and the world is careening toward chaos. A shadowy cabal of villains, including the Russian monk Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), plots to spark global war by pitting the British crown, the German kaiser, and the Russian tsar against one another. Oxford and his grown son (played as an adult by Harris Dickinson), alongside Shola and Polly (Gemma Arterton), develop a network of household-help spies who keep the team abreast of all the international intrigue, eventually leading Oxford into conflict with Rasputin.
If it feels like I’m regurgitating a lot of plot here, well, I am. Because this movie features lots and lots of plot, intrigues leading to intrigues as the Duke of Oxford tries to keep his son away from the front lines and keep the world from spiraling into further chaos. The first proper action scene doesn’t really come until nearly an hour in, when the Oxfords and their servants do battle with Rasputin in a sword fight-cum-danceoff.
Conrad makes it to the front eventually, and it is here where Vaughn is at his most somber and reticent; a pitch-black No Man’s Land is less a battle zone than the setting for a horror film, the location of a midnight knife fight between opposing forces attempting to recover some intel. The hand-to-hand combat is shot in a relatively straightforward way. It’s not without style—it’s hard to imagine Vaughn putting together a series of shots that don’t feel as though they’re ripped from a look book—but it’s not stylized in the sense that every previous fight in this series has been stylized.
It is ugly and brutal and, in the end, senseless, just like the war in which it is set. You can feel Vaughn grappling with the tension at the heart of the enterprise throughout, this vaguely absurd spy series that claimed its origins in the ugliest war mankind has yet fought. The final action sequence takes place in a barn where silent film footage of WWI flickers against a wall while two men square off for a sword fight. The grotesquerie of mechanized warfare serves as the literal backdrop for a stylized, personalized idea of warfare, of great powers and great minds doing battle with each other behind the scenes so as to spare the world a larger horror.
But this is wishful thinking, and Vaughn knows it, and he rubs our face in it with the mid-credits scene, which I won’t spoil for you except to say it’s one of the most intentionally lunatic and darkly satirical things I’ve ever seen in a motion picture.
The King’s Man is a deeply weird film, albeit one tethered to reality by Fiennes and Dickinson’s stiff-upper-lip sensibility. But then, it’s the latest in a fairly weird series, one that began as an aggressively reactionary parody before sliding into a more libertarian mode and, now, confronting the horror and absurdity of war. I don’t know that it entirely works. But I do know that it’s an admirably interesting piece of filmmaking.
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One complaint that has always dogged the James Bond franchise over the years is the inescapable fact that while the films seem to be loaded with gratuitous sex and violence in theory, they never quite manage to show them in any great detail. Obviously, the decision to imply more than display has served the producers for more than a half-century, but can you imagine what it would be like if a Bond film were to include all the seamier elements that they have only hinted at in the past? The early word on the over-the-top action-comedy "Kingsman: The Secret Service" seemed to suggest that it would pay homage to the Bond films of old—the ones made before the series took its turn towards the comparatively serious with the arrival of Daniel Craig —while including all the Good Parts that had been largely absent in the past. Alas, it seems to have taken its inspiration from one of the lesser Roger Moore efforts than the classic Connerys and the result is a fitfully amusing but increasing tedious and occasionally appalling mess that plays like "The Man with the Golden Gun" with ridiculous amounts of gore and severed limbs on display, though the nipples this time around are not so much superfluous as they are distressingly nonexistent.
Based on the comic book from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons , "Kingsman" posits a top secret British espionage group that is inspired by King Arthur and his knights (whose names the members appropriate for their code names), based in a seemingly ordinary Savile Row tailor shop and regularly saves the world without getting into all the political mumbo-jumbo that has affected the efforts of governmental spy organizations. Having lost their Lancelot after a one-man effort to rescue a kidnapped scientist ( Mark Hamill ), the group begins the process of recruiting a replacement and for his nominee, agent Harry "Galahad" Hart ( Colin Firth ) puts up Gary "Eggsy" Unwin ( Taron Egerton ), a seemingly ordinary young punk who lives with his mother and her abusive boyfriend and spends his days getting into dumb trouble. However, Eggsy is also the son of a former Kingsman who gave his life to save Harry and others when he was just a child.
Not surprisingly, Eggsy seems out of place among the far more sophisticated other candidates—only Roxy ( Sophie Cookson ) shows him any kindness or respect—and Kingsman leader Arthur ( Michael Caine ) expects him to wash out quickly. Also not surprisingly, Eggsy manages to last throughout the extended testing process designed to winnow the group down to one under the eye of Merlin ( Mark Strong ). This turns out to be slightly more intense than, say, the executive training program at Harrods—their barracks are quickly flooded while they sleep one night, there is a group skydive where they are informed that one of them is not packing a chute only after they make the jump and they are each given a puppy to raise and train. (Eggsy names his pug "JB" and in one of the films funnier jokes, we realize just how many fictional super-spies have shared those initials over the years.)
While all of this is going on, there is, of course, a diabolical plan with global implications being hatched by a megalomaniacal madman. Our super-villain is Valentine ( Samuel L. Jackson ), an astoundingly wealthy technological pioneer whose frustration at his inability to save the planet through the usual channels has led him to a more sinister approach that involves zapping the minds of the world's population via their cell phones and driving them to kill each other off. Not everyone is to be killed of course and he has also been recruiting or kidnapping celebrities and other dignitaries so that they can help to forge a better world once the riffraff is gone. If you need any further proof that Valentine is mad, consider that he snatches Iggy Azalea but evidently does nothing for Charli XCX even though it was her awesome chorus on "Fancy" that made that song the hit that it was.
It sounds fun in theory, I guess, and there are some entertaining moments of rude irreverence here and there but the giddiness gets a bit tedious after a while. The screenplay by director Matthew Vaughn and longtime collaborator Jane Goldman is kind of like the espionage equivalent of " Scream "—all the characters have seen all the James Bond movies and make frequent reference to their clichés. However, since the Bond movies were never famous for taking themselves seriously, what we have in "Kingsman" is a film making cartoonish jokes about films that were often cartoonish jokes.
Another thing that I found off-putting about "Kingsman," oddly enough, is that it is really, really violent. This may sound like a contradiction of my previously stated desire for a more overtly violent Bond film but Vaughn—whose previous credits include " Kick-Ass ," another savagely brutal adaptation of a Mark Millar comic book—floods the screen with flying limbs and spurting blood throughout, and, while it is all done in a deliberately cartoonish and nihilistic manner, it is still way too much of a not-that-great thing.
On the other hand, the scene in which Valentine tests his weapon on a church congregation styled after those Westboro Baptist creeps is really grotesque—the idea of hateful monsters literally destroying each other, to the soundtrack strains of "Free Bird," no less, sounds funny but it goes on for so long and is so brutal (including spearings, shootings and an ax to the throat) that the joke is lost. Meanwhile, the sex is oddly non-existent other than a not-particularly-amusing bit involving a kidnapped Swedish princess offering particular sexual favors to Eggsy in exchange for saving the world and then—Spoiler Alert—making good on her promise.
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" is not without its compensations. While Egerton is fairly anonymous as the callow would-be Kingsman, Firth, Caine and Strong are clearly having fun with their parts and it is amusing to see Firth dressed to look like Harry Palmer, the rival Sixties-era British spy once played by Caine. (Jackson, on the other hand, is not quite as successful as the wildly lisping villain—since the character does not make very much sense, he never quite manages to get a fix on him.) As he has demonstrated in superior efforts such as " Layer Cake ," "Stardust" and " X-Men: First Class ", Vaughn is an undeniably stylish filmmaker and while this may not be a good movie, it is certainly a good-looking one. Also, the concept is promising, and, who knows, maybe when they get around to the next installment of the franchise they are clearly setting up, they will finally figure out the right tone and make a better movie as a result. Of course, I said the same thing after coming out of "Kick-Ass" and we all know how that turned out.
A moderately insightful critic, full-on Swiftie and all-around bon vivant , Peter Sobczynski, in addition to his work at this site, is also a contributor to The Spool and can be heard weekly discussing new Blu-Ray releases on the Movie Madness podcast on the Now Playing network.
Destroy All Neighbors
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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Colin Firth as Harry Hart
Mark Strong as Merlin
Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine
Michael Caine as Arthur
Jack Davenport as Lancelot
Taron Egerton as Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin
- Matthew Vaughn
- Jane Goldman
- George Richmond
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The king's man, common sense media reviewers.
Violent, overlong "Kingsman" prequel is wildly inconsistent.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie tries to decry violence, particularly th
Orlando Oxford is part sleuth and part warrior; hi
The main character is a White man who has two loya
Extreme comic book-style action violence, with lot
Sex film shows a woman stripping and performing si
Several uses of "f--k," plus "scheisse" (German fo
Main character drinks heavily and gets drunk follo
Parents need to know that The King's Man is a prequel to the two witty but extremely violent comics-based Kingsman movies. It's set in the early 1900s and, like the other films, has tons of over-the-top fighting and action violence, with lots of blood and some gore. Expect to see guns and shooting,…
The movie tries to decry violence, particularly the violence of war, but it also thrives on it, with many scenes of gleefully over-the-top fighting and killing. It also claims that since governments are both clueless and ineffectual -- and easily manipulated -- when it comes to stopping (or not starting) wars, the best way to handle this problem is for private citizens to do it themselves.
Positive Role Models
Orlando Oxford is part sleuth and part warrior; his plans sometimes don't quite work out, leading to huge fight scenes. He uses his wealth and status to try to help others but is also prone to thinking about himself in certain cases.
The main character is a White man who has two loyal assistants: a powerful White woman who's a skilled spy, and a Black fighter who's skilled with knives. They definitely serve him and are secondary to him, but he couldn't get by without them. Characters from many countries are represented, but other than those two key characters, the central cast consists mainly of White men.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Extreme comic book-style action violence, with lots of blood and some gore. Heavy guns and shooting; many characters are shot (including in the head) and killed. Wounds. Sword fights/death via sword. Knife fight; stabbing. Characters are held under water and drowned/nearly drowned. Scenes of WWI trenches, with lots of shooting and explosions. Character with shot-off, mangled leg. Character is beheaded; another is stabbed by mountain goat horn. Brief shot of entire family being executed, including children. Villain randomly kills or maims mountain goats throughout. A torpedoed ship explodes and sinks. Mass grave. Concentration camp with suffering, decimated prisoners. Cyanide pill. Knife fighting practice. Child briefly in peril (he eats a poison cookie but is revived). Vomiting. Dialogue about how a character prefers boys as sexual partners (i.e. sexual predation).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex film shows a woman stripping and performing simulated oral sex (shown from a distance; non-explicit). Passionate kissing. Strong sex-related dialogue and innuendo. Sexual gesture. Shirtless males.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.
Several uses of "f--k," plus "scheisse" (German for "s--t"), "shite," "bastard," "hell," "damn." "Jesus Christ" and "oh God" used as exclamations.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character drinks heavily and gets drunk following the death of his son. Social drinking.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The King's Man is a prequel to the two witty but extremely violent comics-based Kingsman movies. It's set in the early 1900s and, like the other films, has tons of over-the-top fighting and action violence, with lots of blood and some gore. Expect to see guns and shooting, sword fighting, knife fighting, death, drowning, children in peril, violence against goats, and disturbing imagery of war and a concentration camp. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "scheisse" (German for "s--t"), "shite" (Scottish for "s--t"), "bastard," etc. There's an incriminating sex film in which a woman is shown stripping and performing simulated oral sex (seen from. distance; non-explicit). There's also passionate kissing, strong sex-related dialogue and innuendo, a sexual gesture, shirtless males, and more. Adults drink socially, and the main character drinks heavily and gets drunk following a death. Ralph Fiennes , Harris Dickinson , Djimon Hounsou , and Gemma Arterton star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .
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- Parents say (5)
- Kids say (11)
Based on 5 parent reviews
You need to know history to appreciate this film
Has educational value., what's the story.
THE KING'S MAN, which takes place before the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle and chronicles the origin of the Kingsman agency, begins in 1902 in South Africa. Duke Orlando Oxford ( Ralph Fiennes ) and his wife and young son, Conrad, travel there on a diplomatic mission, only to be ambushed. Orlando's leg is wounded, and his wife is killed. He agrees to her dying wish to keep their son away from violence forevermore. Years later, a mysterious villain assembles a crew of the most evil men on Earth, including Grigori "The Mad Monk" Rasputin ( Rhys Ifans ) and starts executing global plans to control WWI and rule the world. At home, a grown-up Conrad ( Harris Dickinson ) wants to enlist in the army, but Orlando encourages a more nonviolent approach: spying and trading information, with help from faithful assistants Shola ( Djimon Hounsou ) and Polly ( Gemma Arterton ), in an attempt to end the war. Of course, fights do happen, including a deadly showdown with the mastermind himself on top of an impossibly high, impossibly dangerous mountain plateau.
Is It Any Good?
Despite a clever, history-subverting idea and a few great action sequences, this overlong, mostly needless prequel flails all over the place, pretending to decry violence but actually thriving on it. Directed and co-written, like its predecessors, by Matthew Vaughn , the The King's Man story twists are actually cleverly silly, incorporating bits of history and swirling them around, Forrest Gump -style, into something new. For example, Tom Hollander plays King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas, who are all -- ahem -- cousins. Vladimir Lenin and Mata Hari also show up jn the mix, and Ifans' Rasputin is a totally unpredictable creation who lends some energy to the movie -- and especially to his balletic fight scene during a lavish Christmas ball.
The final showdown, with Orlando trying to parachute onto a plateau, becoming trapped in the wing of his plane, and then just missing the edge of the cliff, is a true white-knuckler, smoothly helmed by Vaughn. But that's a long ways into The King's Man . Too much of the movie's two-hour-plus running time veers into insincere attempts to drive home the nonviolence theme, including scenes of WWI that are simply not funny; instead -- as Peter Jackson's incredible They Shall Not Grow Old demonstrated -- they were really deadly serious. Not to mention the aftermath of those scenes, which fall into weepy pathos and creates a dead spot in the center of the movie. Ultimately, this film that's seemingly devoted to cleverness, action, and fun finally has too little of any of those to make it worth the effort.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The King's Man 's violence . How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How effective is the movie's message about nonviolence? How does it play out against the action shown on screen?
In what ways does the movie play around with history? How many names or places did you recognize? Did the movie inspire you to learn more?
How is drinking portrayed? In what situations do characters drink? Are there consequences for drinking? Why does that matter?
How does the movie fit in with the Kingsman franchise? In what ways does it expand on the story?
- In theaters : December 22, 2021
- On DVD or streaming : February 22, 2022
- Cast : Gemma Arterton , Ralph Fiennes , Djimon Hounsou
- Director : Matthew Vaughn
- Inclusion Information : Female actors, Black actors
- Studio : Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre : Action/Adventure
- Run time : 131 minutes
- MPAA rating : R
- MPAA explanation : sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material
- Last updated : June 2, 2023
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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‘The King’s Man’ Review: Matthew Vaughn’s Spy Prequel Is Incoherent, Cynical, and Dull
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Guns, suits, and kicking ass. Those are the three pillars of Matthew Vaughn ’s “Kingsman” series, which tracks the adventures of a secret spy organization that stops various global cabals from destroying the world via cartoonish ultra-violence and a devilish sense of humor. Both “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and its sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” revel in an obnoxious combination of mid-century British aesthetics with new school juvenilia. Vaughn’s crass version of wink-wink sophistication ostensibly updates the Bond playbook for a coarser world, but it mostly telegraphs his supposed cleverness and nostalgia-happy referentiality, all of which is bathed in excessive blood and profanity. The films’ box-office success indicates the obvious: nihilistic provocations are a cheap, but effective high.
Vaughn’s latest entry into the series is a prequel, the long-delayed “The King’s Man,” which traces the early-20th century origins of the Kingsman organization. While it explains how the Kingsman organization was founded, it doesn’t get too bogged down in mythology or callbacks. Instead, Vaughn switches up the playbook by making a remixed World War I epic that “reflects” on the nature of violence and historical chaos. In most cases, it sticks to the historical record; in others, it exaggerates motivations and invents figures whole cloth.
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The film’s tone is less cheeky and more serious, especially in the first half, but Vaughn and co-screenwriter Karl Gajdusek have their cake and eat it too by doling out standard “Kingsman”-esque thrills in between heady conversations about non-violence, colonialism, and the horrors of war. Though it might seem like a self-consciously mature “Kingsman” film, rest assured, it’s not really grown-up at heart.
The two previous “Kingsman” films hinge on the mentor-mentee relationship between chav-turned-superspy Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) and elder statesman Harry Hart (Colin Firth). While Hart is like a father figure to the young Eggsy, “The King’s Man” replace this pair with an actual father-son duo whose conflicts are ideological. Well-bred aristocrat Orlando Oxford ( Ralph Fiennes ) becomes a staunch pacifist in 1902 after watching his wife (Alexandra Maria Lara) get killed while delivering food and supplies to a British concentration camp in South Africa. Since then, he has kept a close eye on his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson), who longs to bravely serve his country at all of 17 years old.
As World War I begins to break out, Orlando strongly opposes Conrad’s desire to lie about his age so he can fight on the front lines. He tries to keep him close by letting him in on a little secret: he runs a secret network out of the house alongside housekeeper/nanny Polly ( Gemma Arterton ) and trusty bodyguard/servant Shola ( Djimon Hounsou ) that protects England behind the scenes. Conrad joins them on a mission to Russia to kill Grigori Rasputin (an unrecognizable Rhys Ifans) so he stops unduly influencing the Tsar.
Though Vaughn and Gajdusek fill up “The King’s Man” with a dizzying amount of real-life historical incident and global threats — including yet another secret cabal, only this time it’s run by a Scottish separatist who uses minions to help exacerbate the war so that England collapses — the core story involves Orlando and Conrad’s relationship, which is under strain due to Conrad’s insistence in joining the British army. Orlando desperately tries to explain the horrors of war to his son, drawing on his own disturbing wartime experiences to illustrate how killing a man also kills a part of your soul. But Conrad can’t accept his father’s teachings and refuses to hide behind his wealth and privilege while his peers die in the trenches. Orlando pulls every string possible to keep him from harm’s way, including appealing to George V directly, but Conrad evades every attempt and finds himself in the trenches just like he wanted. He quickly learns that bravery holds little purchase on this battleground.
It’s difficult not to read Orlando’s pacifism as Vaughn’s attempt to address the glib violence at the heart of his franchise. It’s not just that Fiennes successfully mines some pathos in the scenes where he states his principles, elevating otherwise middling dialogue with his refined delivery. It’s also that the violence in the first half is fairly tasteful, at least by the standards of the “Kingsman” series. Vaughn maintains historical fidelity when restaging Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, and Conrad’s trip to no man’s land while on the front lines, though broadly swiped from “1917,” feels appropriately nightmarish. “The King’s Man” isn’t exactly the most absorbing history lesson, but it’s certainly a change of pace from the hyperactive macho norm. It’s a movie that plays to the dads while trying to teach their antsy teenage boys a thing or two about the past.
Of course, this is still a “Kingsman” film we’re talking about, and it’s blatantly obvious where it’s eventually headed. “The King’s Man” might begin as the story of a pacifist who wants to save his well-intentioned son from dying for his country, but it ultimately turns into the story of a pacifist who learns that sometimes it’s necessary to kill a bunch of people to save the British empire. Vaughn pays lip service to Orlando’s beliefs at key moments, but “The King’s Man” eventually abandons them to become an over-the-top, overstuffed shoot-em-up, except with historical precedent to justify it. It’s not a surprising narrative development by any means, but it’s still quite a cynical illustration of “the ends justify the means,” even for such a cynical franchise.
Still, its political incoherence could be forgiven or at least mitigated if “The King’s Man” wasn’t generally so dull. Save for an extended fight sequence against Rasputin, which effectively mixes dance and fight choreography, and a suspenseful scene when Orlando scales a mountain, the action sequences in “The King’s Man” are predictable and unengaging. Vaughn weaves a complex web of historical and political context, befitting the intricate nature of World War I, but he too heavily relies on history to lend every scene with stakes, possibly because the characters are all two-dimensional. Fiennes and Dickinson get by on charisma, but everyone else is found wanting, especially Arterton, who’s saddled with terrible “oh, you boys” dialogue, and Hounsou, who mostly kills baddies and says very little beside for referring to Orlando as “your grace.”
There are fun performance choices on the margins — like Tom Hollander playing King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas, all of whom were real life cousins of each other — but you have to strain to pick out memorable moments. Once the film’s second half gets under way, which is overwhelmed with convoluted plot developments, chintzy CGI, and hollow triumphs, it’s easy to forget everyone’s motivations. Hell, it’s easy to forget that the film is set during World War I. (Luckily, a ridiculous mid-credits scene will remind anyone unable to remember.) Pedestrian cinematic sins they may be, but that it’s all in service of teaching a peacenik to man up and kill for country make such hogwash go down even worse.
20th Century Studios will release “The King’s Man” in theaters on Wednesday, December 22.
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Kingsman: The Secret Service
A spy organisation recruits a promising street kid into the agency's training program, while a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. A spy organisation recruits a promising street kid into the agency's training program, while a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. A spy organisation recruits a promising street kid into the agency's training program, while a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
- Matthew Vaughn
- Jane Goldman
- Mark Millar
- Colin Firth
- Taron Egerton
- Samuel L. Jackson
- 1K User reviews
- 483 Critic reviews
- 60 Metascore
- 11 wins & 36 nominations
- Harry Hart …
- Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin
- (as Adrian Quentin)
- Little Eggsy
- Michelle Unwin
- Professor Arnold
- All cast & crew
- Production, box office & more at IMDbPro
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- Trivia In the film and trailer, when the new Kingsman recruits have their first nights sleep interrupted by a deluge of water pouring into the dorm, on-set, the scene went horrifically wrong. As writer, producer, and director Matthew Vaughn recalls "I shouted 'action!', the computer got it wrong and vrrrrssshh, everyone was twenty feet down underwater. Cameras, sound guys. People were in waders full of water, panic, everyone diving in, and pulling people out." The set, painstakingly planned and rehearsed using height markers and computer-programmed water tanks, washed away in a nearly Biblical flood when said computers went rogue. "Those actors weren't acting, they were absolutely terrified", shudders Vaughn. "It was awful for the first day of filming."
- Goofs Many people think Gazelle has a security implant (visible by the scar behind her ear) and that her head should explode like the other conspirators' heads do when "Merlin" activates the security system. However this is because when the implant is first observed by the Kingsmen (during the video of Valentine SIM cards announcement), viewers mistake the character the scar is shown on for Gazelle. But it's not her, it's a nameless Valentine assistant (played by Johanna Taylor) that in that particular scene looks a bit like Gazelle. Gazelle does not have an implant.
Harry Hart : [to bigoted church lady] I'm a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam.
- Crazy credits There is an extra scene just after the end credits begin.
- Alternate versions The Vietnamese, Argentine and Indonesian cinema versions cut out the notorious church scene.
- Connections Featured in Take That: Get Ready for It (2015)
- Soundtracks Money For Nothing Written by Mark Knopfler / Sting Published by Straitjacket Songs Ltd / Universal Music Publishing Ltd & EMI Music Publishing Ltd. © 1985 Performed by Dire Straits Courtesy of Virgin EMI Records Ltd Under license from Universal Music Operations Ltd & Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV licensing
User reviews 1K
- Jan 2, 2016
- Is it really true about unlimited air supply, while they are doing loo-snorkels? How does it work?
- How did Eggsy learn to fight like a Kingsman?
- Is there a scene during the credits of this film?
- February 13, 2015 (United States)
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- United States
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- Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, Rowley Way, Camden, London, England, UK (council estate where Eggsy lives)
- Twentieth Century Fox
- Cloudy Productions
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- $81,000,000 (estimated)
- Feb 15, 2015
- Runtime 2 hours 9 minutes
- Dolby Atmos
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Kingsman: The Secret Service review – dapper laughs in thrillingly adolescent 007 pastiche
They say the clothes make the man, and these are some killer duds.
Colin Firth is both ludicrously British and modern-day Hollywood in Kingsman: The Secret Service, the wildly enjoyable new film from Matthew Vaughn . His Harry Hart muses on the importance of a bespoke suit one moment and dispatches a band of villains with precise alacrity and nifty gadgets the next. This movie stands in reverence of the English upper classes and the seeming ease with which they gracefully solve problems, yet is so wonderfully absurd that, if one were ever to speak so coarsely, one would say they were “taking the piss”. Kingsman quite neatly has its scone and eats it, too.
Harry Hart is the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a good-natured but wayward kid living in a brutalist apartment block with his mom and abusive stepdad. But his biological father, who died years ago, had a secret identity. He was a Kingsman, and now that Eggsy has come of age (and run afoul of the law), that mysterious group has recruited him for training, too.
Kingsman is a highly advanced, well-funded independent secret service unaligned with any government. If the bit of exposition in the film is to be believed, it was founded by high-end tailors looking to maintain world security so as to ensure a market for their sharp and fancy wares. It’s preposterous, but you buy it since the info drops during a tour of the very elegant, somewhat steampunky private underground system that can whisk agents from London to their manor outside of town.
It’s there where Eggsy will train, Ender’s Game-style, and compete for the one open slot on the roster. There’s need of a new member because an operation to rescue a tweedy professor (played to great effect by Mark Hamill ) has gone awry. A gorgeous female henchman with razor-blade prosthetics for legs sliced an agent in half in a lusciously decorated mountaintop chalet, you see.
This weird death is part of a nefarious scheme by Kingsman’s great nemesis, Valentine, a Mark Zuckerberg-meets-Dr Evil type and source of some of the film’s most unexpected gags. Samuel L Jackson’s psychotic baddie has a thick lisp, penchant for wearing baseball caps indoors and adorns his home with portraits of panda bears that look like they’re designed by Patrick Nagel. When Hart and Valentine finally meet tête-à-tête at his headquarters, they dine on Big Macs served on place settings. And they discuss the absurdity of James Bond movies.
The spirit of 007 is all over this movie, but Vaughn’s script (written with frequent collaborator Jane Goldman ) has a licence to poke fun. There are direct references, like how to mix a martini and Lotte Lenya’s spiked shoe, but the overall vibe is sheer glee, as if no one involved in the production can believe they’re getting away with making such a batshit Bond.
Vaughn and Goldman are working off a comic book by Mark Millar, who also provided source material for their similar (but hardly as clever) Kick-Ass. Millar, whose Marvel Ultimates comics, some argue, form the spine of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, continues to find virtue in very basic, adolescent “could you just imagine if?” narrative exploration. (L’essence du Millar can be read in his 2003 comic Superman: Red Son , in which the interplanetary basket holding Krypton’s last hope landed not in Kansas but in the USSR.) This manifests itself in Kingsman with some set-pieces designed to rattle the cages of rightwing media critics, as if on a dare. A particularly shocking bit of business happens at a rural American church, followed by some screenplay twists that wouldn’t happen in any pusillanimous or “normal” movie. Millar’s voice seems to be egging on Vaughn, whose last film, X-Men: First Class , was quite enjoyable but not nearly hardcore enough for denizens of the darker comic-book playgrounds.
Despite the presence of grandfatherly Michael Caine, Kingsman’s tone is about as far from the Christopher Nolan-style superhero film as you can get. Verisimilitude is frequently traded in for a rich laugh. The action scenes delight with shock humour. It’s violent, but not gory, ready-made for word balloons reading “OOOF” or “KRAKOOM”. This movie is so alive that few will roll their eyes at the message – one that says a true gentleman’s virtue comes from within, and not their accent. (Once Eggsy dons the proper garb, it isn’t like he loses the “bruvs”.) Valentine’s convoluted plan to conquer the world involves hacking our ubiquitous cellphones. But if the spirit of Kingsman takes hold of our culture, all we’ll be carrying is a pocketwatch.
- Action and adventure films
- First look review
- Colin Firth
- Samuel L Jackson
‘The King’s Man’ Film Review: Ralph Fiennes Leads Dopey Spy Saga Prequel
Matthew Vaughn’s prequel is less 007 than “The Avengers” — the one starring Fiennes as TV spy John Steed, that is
This review of “The King’s Man” was first published on Dec. 14.
To call “The King’s Man” an improvement from “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is admittedly damning it with faint praise, but this new entry is undeniably better. The second film in this weird, messy, derivative franchise was an interminable, Frankesteinian nightmare where nothing in a given frame, including the actors, appeared to be shot in the same space at the same time, and by comparison everything here does appear to take place in whatever location it’s meant to be set, with cast members who interact with one another convincingly.
But that previous sequel had the virtue of actually seeming to be a part of the same franchise as the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” whereas this one comes out of nowhere with a story, characters, and tone resembling almost nothing that has come before in the franchise.
Which is better? One supposes it comes down to how much of an appetite one has to watch M from Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies take over as the hero, or probably more accurately, to revisit Ralph Fiennes’ turn as John Steed in a prequel to his big-screen adaptation of British TV series “The Avengers.” But what director Mathew Vaughn has made with this prequel to his earlier superspy series is neither fish nor fowl, neither lighthearted enough to evoke the breezy thrills of the first two films nor consistently serious enough to give them a truly substantive historical or emotional foundation. It’s also a tiresome slog.
With Taron Egerton’s and Colin Firth’s characters not yet a sparkle in their parents’ eyes, Fiennes plays the Duke of Oxford, a man born of nobility and wealth who commits his life to helping the less fortunate — and, after his wife is killed during a Red Cross visit to Africa, protecting his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson, “The Souvenir Part II”) from the violence of war. By the time Conrad is 17, however, skirmishes across Europe have broken out, and the young man is frantically eager to fight for his country, volunteering to make a sacrifice that his father strictly prohibits. But when Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) begins to exert control over the Russian emperor, King George V (Tom Hollander) calls upon the Duke to stop the Russian mystic before he causes the first World War.
Consequently, the Duke introduces Conrad to an expansive network of butlers, maids and servants that he has assembled to spy on world leaders and, where necessary, to exact extrajudicial justice. Unfortunately, the prospect of becoming a spy is still less glamorous to Conrad than fighting alongside his fellow countrymen, so he enlists while the Duke attempts to navigate the political jockeying between Europe’s superpowers. Soon, Conrad is sent to the front while the Duke once again gets called into action on behalf of King and country, as father and son try to serve with honor and distinction while a global conflict threatens to break out.
If the original “Kingsman” had a slightly uninspired but easy to digest premise — what if a scruffy lad, instead of some posh jerk, became a Bond-like spy — “The King’s Man” feels cobbled together from pieces from “1917” and the last few “Mission: Impossible” films, bouncing back and forth between overwrought, mud-covered war scenes and death-defying set pieces with little regard for how jarring the transition might feel to audiences.
The script by Vaughn and Karl Gajdusek (“The November Man”) does about twice as much work to unpack the British colonialism that would be inherent in the backstory of a privileged character like the Duke, to half as much effect; it also wants to eat its cake and have it too, as the Duke tries to adhere to a life of pacifism and then rationalizes why killing outside the parameters of the law is not just permissible but necessary. What ends up happening is that all of the effort that goes into acknowledging and exploring the thornier morality of being a spy only makes every one of the characters’ efforts seem more hypocritical than if they simply went about their business and never mentioned it.
Part of the problem is that Vaughn consistently mistakes being clever for being smart, so he repeatedly veers into winking punchlines — both in the jokes and the fight scenes — that undercut any of the gravitas that he might have generated from a more sincere look at these characters in this time period. He and Gajdusek draw upon history like Winston Groom (and later, Eric Roth) did in “Forrest Gump,” using it as window dressing for an easy joke or telegraphed dramatic payoff, and then when those tactics don’t work, they throw in some irreverent filmmaking or a funny piece to shake up what the characters keep telling us are life-and-death scenarios.
The disadvantage of making a prequel is that the audience automatically knows that things will turn out all right, but aside from presuming way too much about the historical knowledge of moviegoers, the writers can’t even let obviously bad people just be bad, instead spraying on a coat of contemporary idiosyncrasies like a layer of corporate-commissioned graffiti.
In which case, what does this have to do with those two earlier movies? The first film literally climaxed with the hero having anal sex with a Scandinavian princess he rescued — a dubious choice, perhaps, but one that told you exactly what you should have expected from it in terms of tone and substance. This one features Grigori Rasputin Cossack dance-fighting against two opponents and then two soldiers sobbing in each other’s arms in the crater of a mine explosion on a WWI battlefield; a mysterious, bloodthirsty villain with a snarling Scottish brogue who operates out of a mountaintop barn occupied mostly by goats; and an aggressively glib portrayal of the family squabbles between George V, Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia that led to World War I.
The longer “The King’s Man” goes on, the more it seems to be an exercise in Vaughn appropriating ideas from the films he watched in between his own and then remaking them with no regard for how they fit together, much less what they need in order to successfully convey the emotion or meaning they originally did.
Vaughn’s third installment in this series is ultimately a pretty lousy movie; again, better than the last one, but that isn’t much of a compliment. Each of these installments were not made in a different era of Hollywood — whether or not James Bond needed an irreverent update in 2014, his franchise doesn’t need a throat-clearing restoration of its stuffy English charms seven years later. Moreover, this is a franchise where we’ve already seen characters who die violently come back to fight another day, so telling a story that focuses so heavily on irreparable loss and legacy just feels phony. After seven years of movies, “The King’s Man” tries to provide a foundation, a reason, for its predecessors to exist, but despite all of the resources at its disposal and with endless goodwill from audiences to build upon, this latest chapter somehow feels even more pointless than those earlier ones do.
“The King’s Man” opens in US theaters Dec. 22.
Director Matthew Vaughn Shares Frustrating Update on Kingsman 3
Director Matthew Vaughn shares the latest update on Kingsman 3, which may be disappointing for many fans.
Matthew Vaughn reveals that Kingsman 3 will begin production in 2025.
In an interview with Collider, Matthew Vaughn discussed how the wait between the last Kingsman installment and Kingsman 3 may reach five years . Vaughn revealed how Kingsman star Taron Egerton's blossoming career in Hollywood has led to a busy schedule, causing a delay in Kingsman 3's production schedule.
Kingsman Director Recalls Almost Directing Casino Royale
Vaughn stated, "That'll be the next year, because Taron's bloody busy. He's doing another movie, the guy that did Blackbird , they're doing another big TV show. So I have to wait for his availability as well ."
Kingsman 3 Will Conclude the Original Story
Kingsman 3 , titled Kingsman: The Blue Blood , is slated for release as the final chapter in the main saga, wrapping up the journeys of spies Harry and Eggsy. Apart from the 2021 prequel The King's Man , the Kingsman series follows the initiation of Taron Egerton's character Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin into an unorthodox organization of international spies. Eggsy finds mentorship under the wing of the seasoned agent Harry Hart, portrayed by Colin Firth.
Egerton served as an executive producer and portrayed American drug dealer Jimmy Keene in the miniseries Black Bird , adapted from Keene's memoir In with the Devil . The series debuted on Apple TV+ in 2022. Egerton's portrayal was praised by critics, who noted how the British actor captured Jimmy Keene's dual nature, transitioning from overt confidence to silent vulnerability. Egerton earned a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for his performance. In 2023, Egerton took on the role of entrepreneur Henk Rogers in the biographical film Tetris , which also premiered on Apple TV+. The Hollywood Reporter highlighted Egerton's depiction of Rogers, highlighting his ability to embody the character's earnest goofiness.
Why Valentine Is Still the Most Exciting Kingsman Villain
Matthew Vaughn's latest film is the spy action comedy Argylle , which he directed and produced. Argylle features an ensemble cast that includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Henry Cavill, Dua Lipa, Ariana DeBose, John Cena, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film's plot centers on a reclusive author who is drawn into the world of spies and espionage after she realizes that a new spy novel she is writing mirrors real-world events. The film received generally negative reviews from critics and has grossed $43 million worldwide.
Vaughn's schedule is also set to be busy as he's previously announced a reboot of the Kick-Ass franchise and a sequel to The King's Man .
Source: Screen Rant
Kingsman: The Secret Service
A spy organisation recruits a promising street kid into the agency's training program, while a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
"flat-out terrific": stephen king has high praise for new netflix show.
Legendary novelist Stephen King shares his glowing review of a new Netflix arrival, praising the show and spotlighting several of its strengths.
- Stephen King praised the debut episode of The Tourist as thrilling, suspenseful, and filled with mystery.
- The show focuses on a man with memory loss who must piece together clues with the help of a rookie cop.
- Jamie Dornan delivers a great leading performance, and the first episode sets a high standard for the rest of the series.
Stephen King has high praise for the debut episode of The Tourist , highlighting the strengths of the new Netflix show on social media. A combination of drama, comedy, and action thrills, The Tourist focuses on a man who wakes up with no memory of who he is. HBO Max carried the first season of the BBC One show in the U.S. back in 2022. However, late last year, it was confirmed that there were no plans to stream the already-completed season 2. More positive news would follow, with Netflix ultimately rescuing the series.
Now, after Netflix debuted The Tourist season 1 in early February, King is sharing his reactions on social media.
Though he's only seen the first episode, the legendary horror author has a strongly positive reaction to the premiere . He calls it, in part: “ Exciting, suspenseful, mysterious .”
What To Know About The Tourist
Jamie dornan gives a great leading performance.
The Tourist stars Jamie Dornan as a man who wakes up in an Australian hospital. With absolutely no memory of who he is or what he knows after a horrific accident, he has to piece together what little clues he has in order to discover his identity before his past catches up to him. He isn’t alone though, as Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald) is a rookie cop who finds herself involved in the very strange case of his lost memory.
The Tourist cast also includes Shalom Brune-Franklin, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, and Alex Dimitriades, and the ensemble helps to keep the viewer guessing. Written by Harry and Jack Williams, the story begins very differently for Dornan’s character than how it ends , and, due to the nature of his memory loss, the protagonist is never quite sure who he should trust, or even if it would be wise to trust anyone at all. But with no other way to find out about himself, Dornan’s unidentified man moves forward through six episodes in season 1 that oscillate in genre and tone.
Where Was The Tourist Filmed? Jamie Dornan Thriller's Filming Locations Explained
The first episode, more overt in its horror and tension, is arguably the show's best. The way the accident unfolds is harrowing and Dornan, nowhere near the character he plays in the Fifty Shades movies, gives one of the best performances of his career. It's eerie to watch The Man, as he's referred to, wander around a hospital with no recollection of his history. It's like something out of a Stephen King book, if anything. Although the rest of The Tourist is ultimately very different, its lead actor remains as watchable as ever.
Warning: Spoilers for The Tourist season 1 finale below!
What To Expect From The Tourist Season 2
By the finale of the mystery dramedy, it turns out that The Man is a drug smuggler named Elliot. Confronted by Lena Pascal (Victoria Haralabidou), a woman Elliot consistently has visions of, it's revealed that Elliot’s actions smuggling heroin inside people’s bodies led to the painful deaths of two women. It also led to Lena’s disfigurement, all of which she details in a searing monologue that makes plain how awful Elliot was before the accident and why someone would want him dead. This leads Elliot to the same conclusion, too, as he attempts to take his own life.
Despite the grim turn that echoes where the show began, season 1 ends on a hopeful note. Elliot is saved by Helen and the two begin a romantic relationship. The Tourist season 2 sees Elliot and Helen taking a trip to meet Elliot's family, but things quickly devolve into dangerous and unexpected territory. As the second installment progresses, also across six episodes, it's suggested that Elliot's past may not be what he was led to believe.
The Tourist season 2 debuts on Netflix February 29, but has already aired in the UK and Australia.
Source: Stephen King
The Tourist is a dramatic action-thriller series created by Harry and Jack Williams. It was initially released on BBC One in the UK before being released in the US on HBO Max. The series follows Elliot Stanley, an Irish man who wakes up in an Australian hospital with amnesia and must piece together his identity before those pursuing him find him first.