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The King’s Man Review : More than Service-able

How does Vaughn try to breathe life back into his own action franchise?

20th Century Studios

Who is ready to venture back into the violent and over-the-top world of Matthew Vaughn’s trademark franchise? We take a break from the story of Eggsy so we can go back to where it all began. The lore for the Kingsman Service has not been explored too much in the two proper films in the franchise but now we get a chance to see how the Oxfords launched this impressive body of do-gooders. Taking place during WWI, Orlando Oxford and his son Conrad get caught up in politics and espionage when an evil organization tries to gain insight into the destruction of England. How will a small group of individuals turn the tide? That is the story we are (mostly) told in The King’s Man.

How does Vaughn try to breathe life back into his own action franchise? Unfortunately, this prequel honestly feels like a mismatched pair of ideas. You have a decently serious alternative history for WWI with a crazy over-the-top action flick injected in. Only one of these feels like a real Kingsman to me. There are a few highlights in the film that capture Vaughn’s true voice. One of which is an extremely awkward connection between Ralph Fiennes’ Orlando and Rhys Ifans’ disturbed Rasputin. This then spirals into a crazy action sequence worthy of Vaughn’s reputation. The ballet music played over the sequence takes the cake. Then you have the finale which is full of bonkers Vaughn action including an impressive sword fight featuring some first-person shots from sword hilts. How bold, right?

But what about the rest of the film? The two plus hours drag a bit because most of the film feels like a slightly more violent version of the forgettable war dramas that we see popping up. All the twists and turns along the way feel obviously predictable which zaps all the interest out of it. There is one character who is up to no good. But the overly serious tone (including a whole sequence in the trenches during WWI) throws the audience off from what to expect. The themes of pacifism and duty work well in this more serious tone but things just get muddled in the storytelling when the tones clash. The film struggles to balance its story as well as things feel rushed and jumbled.

But what about this big cast? Do they bring the goods? Ralph Fiennes is a fine addition to this franchise as he must balance quite the range of emotions (and he really kicks into badass mode towards the end of the film). Harris Dickinson is fine in the film even if he cannot hold the same charisma up like Taron Egerton can in the other installments of the franchise. Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou make two strong supports in terms of character and skills. Ifans is eating up every frame of scenery as Rasputin. He is creepy, grotesque, and unnerving. There is a special kind of presence he brings. Charles Dance is stalwart in his staunch British affect and Tom Hollander pulls triple duty as plenty of monarchs.

Does Vaughn’s return to Kingsman bring a welcomed result? This film feels like a story ripped from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but flourished with plenty of easter eggs and references. This honestly could have been a different franchise altogether. But the elements that feel like Kingman really standout and deliver plenty of fun. The Dark elements and the dark involved make this a tough goodbye…but these heroes will most certainly be back soon.

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