It may be a given that “Fifty Shades of Grey” will top the box office this Valentine’s Day weekend, but movie critics are more impressed with “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
Director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn‘s adaptation of a comic book by Mark Millar (“Kick-Ass”) and Dave Gibbons (“Watchmen”) has received a majority of glowing reviews for being a fun, stylish and subversive action movie about a super-secret spy organization that recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the its ultra-competitive training program.
The 20th Century Fox film has a 75 percent “fresh” approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, while “Fifty Shades” — an adaptation of author E.L. James‘ best-selling erotic romance novel — has been declared “rotten” with just a 43 percent approval rating.
TheWrap‘s James Rocchi hailed the action-comedy combo as Vaughn’s “best film,” beating out “Kick-Ass,” “Layer Cake” and “X-Men: First Class.”
“‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is a startlingly enjoyable and well-made action film leavened by humor and slicked along by style, made by, for, and about people who’ve seen far too many Bond films,” Rocchi wrote in his review. “As for the construction, it’s superb. The action may be ludicrous, but it’s also engaging and delightful; the production design is all tributes and nods to other films and other bits of pop culture, but ‘Kingsman’ also creates a coherent world for itself. The script’s tone, with a few notable disappointments, is also zesty but rarely sour, knowing yet rarely cynical.”
“A sequence in which Harry slaughters a churchful of rednecks hits the right anarchic note, showing Firth, at 54, with the balletic prowess of someone half his age,” McGovern wrote. “Speaking of young men, newcomer Taron Egerton, playing Harry’s protégé, delivers a star-making performance flush with the kind of charm and unexpected gravitas that no amount of flashy filmmaking can fake.”
Village Voice critic Alan Scherstuhl believes Vaughn has “whipped up the most interesting” comic book movie of the last few years — during which there has been too many to list here — for contradicting “jolly do-goodism and its brutalizing sadism.”
“Everything in ‘Kingsman’ is familiar, cribbed from James Bond and a thousand other sources, yet every setup gets twisted twice, and then once more, just when you think you’re ahead of it,” Scherstuhl wrote. “He invests the nastiest elements of kill-‘em-all entertainments with giddy invention, going so far over the top that you might worry, as the movie swells up bigger and bigger with its madness, that at some point it must collapse, crashing back into formula, the way most Bond and comic-book movies do. But somehow he keeps the craziness comin.”
Time Out London critic Tom Huddleston opined, “‘Kingsman’ is undoubtedly worth the ticket price. Just try not to think too much.”
Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers positioned it as a healthy theatrical alternative to “Fifty Shades of Grey” for those turned off by BDSM, but aroused by “unstoppable fun.”
“As sadistic toys go, I prefer the spy gadgets Harry Hart (Colin Firth) unleashes in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ to anything Christian Grey brings out of his room of pain in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ But, hey, that’s just me,” Travers wrote. “‘Kingsman’ is all over the place, sometimes to its detriment. But you won’t want to miss the surprises it delights in springing.”
New York Post critic Kyle Smith was among the 25 percent minority of critics that could not, and would not recommend the move to their readers.
“‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ borrows the tone, story, characters and humor of ‘Kick-Ass,’ only this time in a 007 world instead of Batman’s. Nearly everything it does, it does poorly: This one is ‘Weak-Ass,'” Smith wrote. “Directed (like ‘Kick-Ass’) by Matthew Vaughn, ‘Kingsman’ is a mad clutter of ‘Austin Powers’-style parody, campy comedy and gory action. It’s like a salad composed of lettuce, tomatoes, butterscotch pudding, raw liver and motor oil.”