Kingsman:  The Secret Service

 

It's the kind of idea we'd all love to believe of the world:  that somewhere out there, there's a silent, clandestine, powerful band of do-gooders who are courtly, mannerly, and also incredibly skillful in the struggle against evil, without the slightest need for publicity or reward.  A secret organization that's largely invisible, or at the very least, hidden in plain sight.  OK, it's a comic book premise, so it's painted in such broad strokes that there's little room for shading or ambiguity.  But it's imaginative and fun, even if a bit over-the-top in the personal violence department.  But though the bad guys drop like flies, their demise is essentially bloodless.  It's easy to imagine everybody getting back up again after the Director yells "Cut!"

Samuel L. Jackson is also the bad guy, Mr. Valentine, who is also well-spoken, mannerly, and even, in his own perverse way, persuasive.  Well, he would be, since he's offering free phone and internet connection to everyone forever.  There's just one hitch:  it requires a little implanted chip, just below the ear.  Painless installation.  Just a little scar that's hardly noticeable.

Ah, but this specially-programmed computer chip carries within it some mind-control aspects that then allows the devilish Mr. Valentine to spread not love to everyone, as his name would imply, but instead, chaos and mayhem.  But even that is, according to Mr. Valentine, actually done out of love for the world, because if he turns all these stupid people against each other, and that trims down the population considerably, well, it may be the only way to really save the planet from overconsumption of its own resources. Not to mention improving the gene pool.

Yes, in the last century we had a couple of World Wars to thin the growing herd, but that was long, drawn-out, and messy.  Not to mention not available to all segments of the population.  This way, we have equal-opportunity internecine warfare.

All that stands in the way of Mr. Valentine's nefarious doomsday device is the secret Round Table of these modern Knights of the Secret Service, who call each other names like Lancelot and Gallahad, but alas, there's no fair Guinevere, except their own ideal of a safe and intact Mother Earth.  And yes, the unavoidable violence of their shadow work occasionally requires them to go recruiting from the ranks of plebians, which in itself is an exercise in nature/nurture:  how does one determine who has "the right stuff"?  And how much does culture and breeding count toward finding someone who's just genteel enough?  Some say that class can't be taught.  Others say that money isn't what makes people classy, it's how they treat others.  Can this, too, be taught?

Those of us who enjoy rooting for the underdog will delight in the rough-around-the-edges intern, "Eggsy" (Taron Egerton) slowly rising to the top of his class, like Harry Potter in the Hogwarts school, because of talent, yes, but also because of a genetic pedigree he didn't know he had.  But will he be resourceful enough to overcome not only the external powers of darkness, but also the bedeviling struggle within him?

Don't expect Academy Award performances, or subtlety, or nuance.  But here's a kind of James Bond on steroids that unabashedly appeals to the bashing instinct in all of us.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas