It’s homage vs tribute as entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a look at a couple of new action movies, the James Bond influenced Kingsman: The Secret Service and the 80s inspired Kung Fury.

Paying homage to your heroes can be a tricky thing. Some directors do it well, like Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, others less so. The movies we look at today pay homage to two classic cinema tropes, the British spy movie and the 80’s action blockbuster.

Kingsman: The Secret Service — directed by Matthew Vaughn

Based on a graphic novel, The Kingsman tells the story of dodgy geezer Eggsy, a young hoodlum who is recruited into an ancient society of secret agents. Surrounded by entitled snobs, Eggsy must survive the ultra-competitive training and prove he is worthy of a place on the team. At the same time, a megalomaniac prepares to kill 95 per cent of the people on earth.

Director Matthew Vaughn has previously worked on comic book adaptations including Kick Ass and X-Men First Class, as well as Layer Cake, the film that showed that Daniel Craig would probably make a good James Bond. Vaughn has a keen eye for an action sequence and an ability to take images directly from the page to the screen, adding a kinetic energy that allows you to ignore the physics and/or logic defying nature of what’s happening on screen.

Welsh newcomer Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, bringing a grubby charm to a character that could have been intensely dislikable. Michael Caine brings a typically Michael Caine-like gravitas to the role of spymaster Arthur, while Mark Hamill hams it up as Professor Arnold, a decidedly dodgy scientist. Mark Strong plays against bad-guy type as Merlin, the quartermaster with a wry smile and handy sub-machine gun. But if there is one person who really stands out in this movie, it’s Colin Firth.

Famous for romantic comedies and Jane Austin adaptations, Firth has a ball playing veteran spy Harry Hart, better known by his codename, Galahad, a master spy equally adept at taking out a room full of thugs as lecturing on the finer points of men’s fashion. The scene where he confronts a pub full of local hard men is far more entertaining than violence should be, and the late-movie sequence of Galahad vs a church full of fundamentalist Christians pushes the boundaries of what you might imagine Mr Darcy does on his day off.

 

A spy is only as good as his nemesis, and Samuel L Jackson plays the role of billionaire Valentine with aplomb. Affecting a speech impediment and a Steve Jobs meets Anthony Robbins attitude, Jackson chews the scenery (and McDonalds in an amusing product placement) as the bad guy who thinks he’s going to save the world.

During the film’s theatrical run there was a minor controversy about a throwaway gag in the closing stages of the movie, with critics branding it misogynist. Without spoiling the joke, I’d suggest that this is a nod to the "sex as a reward" motif that ran through a number of Bond films and should be taken in the same spirit as the half an hour of ultraviolence that precedes it.

Over the top, funny and entertaining, Kingsman: The Secret Service is available now on DVD.

Kung Fury — directed by David Sandberg

Produced on a shoestring budget and funded through Kickstarter, Kung Fury is a 30 minute short film written, directed by and starring David Sandberg. The Swedish triple threat loves 80’s action movies, and quit his job as a commercial director to write an action comedy set in the era. Sandberg raised over $630,000 based on an outlandish pitch about time travel, kung fu, Vikings and Hitler, then proceeded to make exactly what he had promised.

The film opens with Miami Detective Kung Fury’s partner Dragon being sliced in half by a ninja, while Fury himself is simultaneously bitten by a cobra and struck by lightning. Naturally, this freak accident gives Kung Fury super kung fu powers, which he uses to fight crime and battle a time travelling Adolf Hitler, better known as Kung Führer.

In an effort to stop Hitler before he enters the timeline, Kung Fury travels back in time, but overshoots and ends up in the Viking era, making friends with a pair of Valkyries. They persuade the Norse god Thor to send Kung Fury back into the future, where the group form a superteam and take on the might of the entire German army.

As an added treat for fans of kitch, Baywatch star and Berlin Wall destroyer David Hasslehoff sings the theme song True Survivor, with a film clip featuring the Hoff interacting with Kung Fury. If you’re in the mood, it’s pretty funny (although you probably don’t have to watch the whole thing to get the joke).

Kung Fury is highly recommended for fans of any of the following movies: Predator, Kickboxer, Lethal Weapon, Robocop, Die Hard, First Blood, Commando and anything starring Jan Michael Vincent or Chuck Norris.

The Verdict

While it is an enormous amount of fun, Kung Fury seems like an extended trailer for an awesome movie we might get to see in two or three years. If you’re one of those people who have watched the Star Wars trailer half a dozen times, you probably won’t mind watching this on YouTube and then again on the big screen.

Kingsman, on the other hand, feels like the first movie in a series, setting up a world of spies and bad guys that it would be interesting to revisit every few years. Fortunately, it seems that Matthew Vaughn agrees, as he has just announced that he is writing the script for Kingsman 2.

The entire 30 minute version of Kung Fury is currently available to view on YouTube. Or right here:

Like what you read? John’s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

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