The King’s Man


‘…it’s hard to find a consistent flavour in a two-faced film that revels in gleeful slaughter in the action scenes and then po-faced renditions of war poetry by contrast…’

Released with little fanfare, presumably to save on costs, Matthew Vaughn’s prequel to the two existing Kingsman films has been delayed, by my count, on nine previous occasions. Covid obviously played a part in this stuttering release, but it’s hard to imagine an alternate universe in which the erratic The King’s Man would be a hit. Rather than the smart-arse, vulgar James Bond parody of the first two films, this obtuse venture brings back none of the stars or characters previously featured, and instead sets the stuffy action back in the 1910’s. The uneven tone of this film suggests some meddling in the enforced switch from Fox to Disney, with unhappy results for Mark Millar’s proposed seven-film franchise.

So, instead of the teenage yob protagonist of the first film, the main character here is a rather different class warrior; Orlando, The Duke of Oxford. He’s played by Ralph Fiennes, who is in his sixties and nobody’s idea of an action hero; fortunately there’s very little in the way of physical action for Fiennes to navigate other than dropping his trousers for comedic effect. Orlando’s son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) wants to fight in WWI, but his dad forbids it. Instead, father and son embark on a dangerous mission to Moscow to assassinate holy-roller Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) who is controlling Russian interests in The Great Game of geo-political diplomacy. We all know what happened to Rasputin, but his protracted death reveals the influence of a true enemy, known as The Shepherd…

…who turns out to be an angry Scottish nationalist intent on revenge on the English for stealing his family mill; details are thankfully sketchy. The villain’s identity is concealed for nearly two hours of the 130+ running time here, a bold move that doesn’t make much sense, and provides for a flat final revelation. Apart from the usual slavering over the character and reputation of the old Empire, there’s not much to connect this story to the original films beyond a couple of logos on rings, and almost no other action to speak of; a fight in muddy hell of the Western Front, and a decent if standard action climax on a cliff-top in Scotland peopled by goats. The rampant misogyny of the first two films is missing, but it’s hard to find a consistent flavour in a two-faced film that revels in gleeful slaughter in the action scenes and then po-faced renditions of war poetry by contrast; the final sincere dedication and a jokey post-credits scene involving Hitler feel like the ends of two completely different films.

I’m running against the grain here, but I’d have to confess I found The King’s Man an improvement on the first two films; the juvenile emphasis on sex is given a rest for this outing. With a stellar cast including Matthew Goode, Gemma Arteton and Tom Hollander and a swanky production design, the result isn’t boring, but it is rather bland and won’t appeal to fans of the first few movies. With a reported cost of $90 million and no obvious avenues for recoup when it goes direct to Disney+, the Kingsman franchise looks likely to go the way of the much-hyped Kick Ass and Jupiter’s Legacy.

The King’s Man is out now; the promotional ‘dance video’ below is actually much more fun to watch than the movie itself.


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  1. Hurrah for The Kingsman – now I know why America took so long to enter World War One: because President Wilson was being blackmailed. This origin story was okay until it turned into a freewheeling history lesson. The battlefield element well done until the son decides the best way to carry a wounded colleague back home is not at night but in the blazing sun. I liked the idea of the pacifist but you are hardly going to endear us to either father or son for managing to avoid enlistment. And unless the son had some unknown correspondence with poet Wilfred Owen Ralph Fiennes would have been unable to read out Dulce et Decorum Est at his son’s funeral during WWI since the poem was not published until 1920. Too much of this seemed cockeyed and yet in essence it was very well made. Presumably Part 3 is a no-go.

    • I really hope they just abandon, this, as The King’s Man is easily the best of the three and no-one saw it. Great point about the poem; the anachronisms are all over the place anyway, but that’s a doozy. Quite a solid movie, considering the franchise, but some real schoolboy errors, as you describe, and not a goer for the audiences who lapped up the first two deeply obnoxious films.

  2. Seems like I’ve been watching this trailer for a year. Maybe audiences felt they’d already seen the movie. Will check it out next week – if it’s still running.

  3. “an angry Scottish nationalist intent on revenge on the English for stealing his family mill.” Congratulations on landing the role! 😀 Also, is that grumpy Ol’ Alan Moore playing Rasputin?
    But seriously, I’ve heard absolutely zero about this movie. They were obviously saving money on “promotion.” Do you get the feeling “studio interference” played a big part in the final cut?

    • Yup. Disney are not Fox. And Kingsman is not a Disney property. I’m surprised it was a Fox property. Not sure if it recut, or changed at script level, but it really doesn’t seem to share much with the franchise. Oddly, that’s a plus for me, but then I never recovered from having my old family mill stolen from me…

        • I interviewed Vaughn for Layer Cake, and it looked like his career was money in the bank. Now, not so much.

          Oddly, I’d buy a copy of this film out of a 50p charity bin because it’s an interesting failure. Which is more than I’d say for K 1 and 2, neither of which I’d give tuppence for. It takes something special to take a seemingly successful IP and make a film that not even a tenth of the previous audience turn out for, but somehow they managed it, so there’s a folly/novelty factor.

  4. I haven’t seen the other Kings Man movies but it doesn’t really sound like a franchise I’d be interested in. So if this movie puts the nail in the franchise’s coffin, I’m ok with that. Hopefully somebody, somewhere, will make a good movie now…..

    • I’d like that. But there’s lots of better movies than this, and I’d advise you to steer clear of the whole shebang.

            • You win nothing. Don’t think I didn’t notice that neither you nor Alex have entered the festive quiz. Fragile scored 18. So don’t start dreaming of fast cars; you’ll be lucky to get an Emerson Lake and Palmer combi tv…

              • In my defense, I didn’t enter the quiz because I knew that “somebody” was going to blow me out of the water.
                And if that MasterMix guy showed up, I’d be obliterated!

                There are a few things I’m willing to fight for. Winning a movie swag quiz isn’t one of them 😀

                Plus, giving away prizes puts pressure on me. So really, you could say I was holding on to my ideals by not doing the quiz, since I believe that movies, and movie related stuff, should only be fun and entertaining. Yes, that is it. I am a man of principle and not doing the quiz was me standing on my principles!

                  • I thought you were offering a secret, absolutely fabulous and free week long cruise as a prize? Did I misread your post?

                    I only get 1 right on Alex’s quiz. And he’s not offering secret free cruises….

                    • I wouldn’t be so gauche as to suggest a material prize. But the prize is, in fact, material. A lot of it.

                      But entering Alex’s quiz does not suggest you are above the notion of competition?

                    • You’re not gauche at all. Sorry if that came across that way. Why, your review of Titane had me in tears with how classy it was. After that movie, no one, in the past or ever into the future, would even dare raise the suggestion that you are gauche.

                      Alex’s quizzes are a competition against myself. I have to get at least one. And really, since only you and Fraggle are also answering, and Fraggle cheats outrageously with image searching, it doesn’t feel like a competition at all. It’s like getting out of bed in morning….

                    • How very dare you accuse a lady of cheating? What would The Notorious GK Chesterton say? Millions across the world play Alex’s quiz, it’s the most popular leisure activity in Andorra.

                      As punishment for such gaucheness , you must watch a triple bill of European art house classics Titane, Borders and Possessor, and that Argentinian one about the sea monster that never shows up as well. I’ll come by with a mop to clean up your remains…

                    • MERCY!
                      no mere mortal could watch all of that in a row and survive.

                      As for Mrs Cheaterpants, she regularly admits to it. And Alex encourages her! The youth of today, so corrupt!

                    • Sigh. My mind is blown. I noticed she always gets the benefit of the doubt, while my papers are strictly marked, and the results buried when I win. It’s all so unfair, but it’s better than them being out and free to walk the streets, right?

                    • What would the world do if movie reviewers took to the streets? We’d have anarchy and riots. So yes, best to keep them happy and indoors, safer for all 😀

                    • Is that how it works? I didn’t know Emerson made laptops. What kind of tape-deck does it have?

                    • If I could get one of those cool mini-computers and hook it up to my tv, that would be awesome. But I need the functionality of a full laptop.

                      But yeah, cheating is easy when you have the tech do all the work. That’s why I love my job so much. The robots do all the hardwork of digging the holes or cutting the trees down. I just have to supervise…

                    • You command a group of industrial robots? Can’t you just command them to find you a link between your Emerson tm laptop and tv?

                    • If only they were that smart. Besides, with their lightsabers, they’re more likely to cut holes in our walls than solve any problems.

                      I looked into the home modeling models and boy howdy, talk about expensive. 3 bucks! Who can afford 3 bucks in todays economy?! I’d like to meet some of these fat cat types who can afford 3buck robots….

                    • Thanks! Just make sure they don’t have lightsabers. Our condo bylaws have a strict “no robot lightsabers” clause and we could be fined big time.

                    • That’s fine, I’ll fully brief them before dispatch. I’ll need an address for tracking?

                    • Look, I need your address and a screenshot of your debit card, front and back. Just get it done, no questions.

                    • Mate, it’s not generosity, it’s survival. Do you want not stop Euro arthouse movies on your Emerson or not?

                    • WAIT, that’s what they’re going to be delivering? I thought I asked for mercy and that’s why you were offering me special tracking brownies?

  5. Yeah, I wasn’t too thrilled by the first two movies. Kind of chaotic. This doesn’t sound good.

    If we’re in the 1910s, does the son want to fight in WWI or II?

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