The King’s Man
(Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, et al / R / 2h 11m / 20th Century Studios)
Summary: One man must race against time to stop history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds from starting a war and wiping out millions of people.
Verdict: This superfluous Kingsman origin story sees writer-director Matthew Vaughn sketch a blueprint for the suited and booted secret spy organization.
The third film in the franchise, it begins with Ralph Fiennes’s Orlando Oxford, an aristocrat and widowed war veteran who regrets his part in plundering Britain’s colonies.
A self-declared pacifist, he discourages his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from enlisting in the army – but the first world war has broken out and a global disaster must be stopped.
Orlando is flanked by ass-kicking comrades played by Djimon Hounsou and Gemma Arterton (the only woman in the film offered anything resembling a speaking role).
The tone lurches awkwardly from sweeping colonial melodrama to grim battle epic, camp, pseudo-Bond caper and crass, unfunny farce. All exist on a spectrum of tedious laddishness, from Rhys Ifans’s puerile Rasputin – a dancing, vomiting mystic monk – to a somber, reverent set piece in the trenches.
It’s a fun bit of historical revisionism when the war is revealed to have been masterminded by a shadowy villain with a Scottish accent, determined to topple the British empire while punishing Fiennes’s “posh prick”!
Still, the film can’t resist reveling in a conservative conclusion outside Buckingham Palace, with a victory banner fluttering against a smattering of St George’s flags. [SH]