The movie can be a lot of fun if you don’t think too hard about it.
THE KING'S MAN 1/2
Matthew Vaughn directs
Written by: Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Karl Gajdusek, Mark Millar, and Dave Gibbons.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Daniel Bruhl, Charles Dance
Running time: 131 minutes
It's a chance to see Ralph Fiennes, a consummate film professional, here in a linen safari suit and blue smoking jacket. He plays the Duke of Oxford and uses his sword cane to kill similar natty foes. Even the villains in this movie can wear tartan pants, fur collared coats and fur collared jackets. Fiennes attempts to tackle this sillyness with the same boldhearted dedication and seriousness of purpose that he used to play Hamlet for The Royal Shakespeare Company.
Rhys Ifans plays the role of a cartoonishly crass Grigori Racputin, a member a corrupt cabal that plots to overthrow polite society (i.e. Great Britain and literally no other). The consummate Welsh scene-stealer, Draped in Alan Moore drag and able to sword fight in the style Slavic folk dances, faith heals, while sounding like an a didgeridoo.
Did I mention that Tom Hollander is a triple threat as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, or Czar Nicolas? The Bohemian Rhapsody stars plays the first as a gentleman and the second two as buffoons, keeping in line with The King's Man's narrow world view.
Although there is less blood than usual in the Kingsman franchise, every knife plunge or bullet to the head is accompanied with the familiar gushing Slush sound that sounds like a Slurpee machine. There are few attempts at humor, and many of them fail.
Set pieces can be both exciting and imaginative.
Silent knife fight between soldiers caught in two trenches on a World War I battlefield. Featuring Conrad, the Duke's gung-ho son (Harris Dickinson), the doe eye prince in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil). It was a great sight to see Fiennes balance on a biplane wing like Tom Cruise in the early 20th century.
The King's Man's best moments feel like your great grandfather's tin soldiers have been thrown out to make a game.
But what about the movie's politics. Ugh. These are the cinematic equivalent to your British uncle complaining about taxi drivers with foreign accents, or that Brexit didn’t go far enough.
Perhaps it is best to ignore him and instead focus on his waistcoat with windowpane. It's exquisite.