Kingsmen: The Secret Service

By Tim McEown

Mailed on February 17, 2015

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Dear Ayn Rand
Satirical Target

Dear Ayn,

You have achieved an unenviable immortality since your ignominious passing., haven’t you? The last thing I was expecting when I walked into the theatre to watch Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a vicious skewering of your Ubermensch John Galt. But given how much philosophical cover you have afforded the latest iteration of morally challenged free marketers I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised.

Because there it was, that skewering splattered across the screen—from the remote island filled with the elite movers and shakers to the class-consciousness that fills almost every frame of this movie. Kingsman: The Secret Service is informed by every James Bond joint that Roger Moore ever made —coupled with a Picketty-like critique and the idea that a Gentleman (or Gentlewoman) is made, not born.

It was all there, plus some of the old Ultraviolence.

Samuel L. Jackson might seem to be an odd avatar for John Galt, with his lisp and Flavor Flav fashion sense, but in all ways that matter he is a note perfect melding of a James Bond megalomaniac and the fatuous ideal of your Objectivist ethos.  Both are equally cartoonish, in their conception and motivations, and the combination works remarkably well within the confines of Vaughn’s surreal, amped up world.

Vaughn himself seems particularly scattershot with his chosen targets. It is a laundry list of the unpleasant and woefully mislead. Religious fundamentalists, the lads down the pub, Old Money types and Venture Capitalists as well as brutal climbers like Michael Caine, who is so eager to eradicate any trace of his humble beginnings that he gleefully subverts his life’s work to maintain the Kingsman’s class driven purity.

There is also some confusion about what exactly is appropriate as an object of aspiration. Is it excellence? Power? Sexual Conquest? Saville Row smoothness? All of the above? But it is a glorious kind of manic confusion and Vaughn and the remarkably strong cast make it work eighty-five percent of the time.

Colin Firth was a happy surprise, a kind of Henry Higgins with a bulletproof umbrella and a remarkable facility for all sorts of ruckus. The set piece that features him annihilating an entire Jesus Camp-type Congregation was a personal favorite. Vaughn does Guy Ritchie slow motion progressions far better than Guy Ritchie.

One of the truly retrograde artifacts of Kingsman: The Secret Service is its sexual politics. Women are either the competent and emasculating nemesis, vague paragons of virtue or simply a sexual reward. Here Vaughn seems stuck in the Old Bond trope most purely. This is a film about men and their various ticks and affectations. And in the same way that the Moore Bond films were Walter Mitty-level fantasies about urbane, smoove talking killers this film seems entirely comfortable inhabiting the same conceit.

The film sits squarely on the shoulders of its young protagonist, played with a remarkable depth and confidence by Taron Egerton. Eggsy is a lad from a Council Estate (the British equivalent of inner city projects) the kind of Public Housing that your adherents see as ground zero for all the ills of socialist parasitism. That he is the eventual architect of the demise of the Galt-clone is both pointed and surprisingly satisfying. I usually don’t care for these kind of simplistic revenge fantasies but Vaughn managed to target most of my personal peeves so well, and with a kind of nasty wit, that I enjoyed this movie thoroughly.

I suppose in a lot of ways this is the perfect film to put the final nail in your coffin. A chimera that meanders all over the map with a kind of pyrotechnic competence anchored by the inimitable Mark Strong: a working class Scotsman who, in the end, sides with the slightly anarchic kids as they summarily execute the 1% that you fetishized so slavishly.

Here is to ludicrous and enjoyable confections that put you in your place, Ayn.

So Goddamn sincerely,


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