The King's Man (2021)
Layer Cake is a hell of a way to start your directorial career, but Matthew Vaughn did so well, he decided he liked it. Here, the Kingsman franchise turns its attention to the past and the creation of the super secret super force of heroes we are all already familiar with, no doubt.
This is still big budget, big bells and whistles, but mostly new faces, to the franchise at least. Most notably Gemma Arterton and Harris Dickinson, but many others make first time appearances, moved into taking part by the success of the two previous films, The Secret Service and The Golden Circle.
Whilst this lurks in the early part of the last century, this is not exactly concerned too much about historical accuracy or relevance. You didn't come here to be lectured, after all, and Vaughn knows this well enough.
When Conrad's mother is shot and killed whilst representing the Red Cross, his father promises her that he will protect their son from war in the future and for more than a decade. he is as good as his word, until war is actually raging and Conrad pushes his father to allow him to enlist. The rise of Rasputin in the east and his power over the Tsar means he is becoming a threat to everyone.
This feel more like a Pirates of the Caribbean episode, despite the plummy accents, stiff upper lips and starched Victorian collars. It takes a while to politely introduce itself too, the real plot only beginning after a meandering forty minutes.
"I only makes decisions when my belly is full or my balls are empty." "Well, thank god dinner is being served."
Rhys Ifans as Rasputin and Ralph Fiennes as Conrad's father Orlando bounce off each other in a very enjoyable away, full of both equal parts menace and comedy. If only it were longer. The whole picture, of course, is deliberately a light-hearted action-adventure throughout. This is part of what made the franchise successful and there would be no real reason to change it now.
Very watchable and continually entertaining, it does lack the brutish charm of the original and Taron Egerton was definitely missed in his absence, who shone on the first two films, along with an also absent Colin Firth. There are scenes of poignancy still, delivered as Vaughn has many times before, a trip to No Man's Land not the least of them.
Not always the barrel of laughs or littered with opportunity for unbridled ultraviolent glee that the franchise has employed before, but no worse for that fact. I was left thinking quite often that it's almost a shame Sam Mendes gave us 1917 only a couple of years before, or this would have been even more impressive.