“The King’s Man”: Comic Meets History Book

The herald

Matthew Vaughn’s “The King’s Man” is such an inconsistent action movie.

Looks like half the production crews wanted to make “1917” and the other half opened the wallets for the UK version of “Team America: World Police”.

It’s a movie that too often tries to be a serious study of politics, war, and pacifism until it slaps you in the face with a reminder that it’s all set for one. the widest, most wacky action franchises of the modern era. .

Of course, one probably shouldn’t look for messages in a movie in this series, but Vaughn and co-writer Karl Gajdusek continue to point them out with very serious discussions on everything from colonialism to the human cost of war and it seems. clear that the director wanted to make a dramatic WWI film, but then someone crammed it into the Kingsman franchise.

A charismatic cast and sometimes entertaining action choreography keep it from being completely bored, but this weird hybrid of war drama and patriotic action never finds its rhythm.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” made it clear in 2014 that Matthew Vaughn really wanted to make a James Bond movie, preferably one from the most ridiculously conceived era when 007 went to space.

Interestingly, “The King’s Man” is a more traditional spy film for most of its duration, focusing on intrigue and espionage more than gadgets and explosions.

It also centers on a man who clearly could have been Bond in an alternate universe, Ralph Fiennes, an actor who always gives his all, even when a movie doesn’t quite know what to do with him.

Fiennes plays Orlando Oxford, the man who is said to have founded the covert operation that centered the first two films, and, apparently, will play a major role in several events related to the First World War.

The Duke of Oxford is an important ally of King George (Tom Hollander, who also plays Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas in an admittedly funny casting choice) during a time when it seems like a violent conflict is inevitable.

Oxford essentially starts up its own spy ring with the help of Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), two geniuses who also happen to be servants of his domain, able to hide in plain sight of many white men. privileged ignore them. Yes, an interesting idea, but “The King’s Man” hardly does anything about it, even though Hounsou and Arterton are two of the highlights of the film (give them an action-focused spin-off).

Meanwhile, a villain who has only seen from behind for nearly two hours of the film’s duration plans to plunge the world into chaos with the help of his own spy network, including Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) himself.

As the war grows bloodier, Oxford struggles to keep his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from the front lines, preaching pacifism and protection wherever possible. And yet, the movie continues to push this back until it almost seems to suggest that the horrors of this world will turn even the most honest of gentlemen into killing machines.

“The King’s Man” is a tonal mess. It opens with notes about the inhumane conditions of British soldiers in South Africa and a pledge to keep a young Conrad Oxford away from a life of violence.

In other words, it comes off as a commentary on colonialism and pacifism, two things that are goodbye as Fiennes parachutes from a plane and fights with a mountain goat in the final act.

And it’s not like the tone is consistent, as Vaughn’s film constantly goes from a serious war movie with “something to say” to the wacky action aesthetic that fans of the first two films will ask for. .

Therefore, “The King’s Man” only works when he remembers his crazy predecessors. – www.rogerebert.com

Daniel K. Denny