Review: The King’s Man

Score: C+

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Rated: R

In all my years of reviewing movies - and we're coming up on a decade of me writing for this site - I don't know if I've ever seen a movie as wildly inconsistent as The King's Man. This prequel to Vaughn's two previous Kingsman movies has been delayed at least eight times. And while it's a little more controlled than the excessive Golden Circle, it's all over the place tonally. It can't decide if it wants to be Paths of Glory or Austin Powers.

From its opening scene, it's distinctly anti-war. When his wife is killed by a sniper's bullet, Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) devotes his life to pacifism. But since humanity can never stop killing each other, war keeps creeping up. Despite the best attempts of his team to thwart assassinations and take down bloodthirsty advisers, the Great War erupts. Oxford does all he can to keep his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from enlisting with the British Army. But nationalism and the endless conspiring of a league of supervillains keeps the bloodshed going, and Conrad is off to claim glory on the battlefield.

But before we get there, Orlando, Conrad and his team head to Russia in a section that feels like it's from a completely different film. Rhys Ifans is cranked up to 11 as Rasputin, who has a firm grasp on Tsar Nicholas II (Tom Hollander). This scene has it all: insults, sensual massage, near-drownings, projectile vomit and a sword fight. This feels closer in spirit to the first entry, which featured Colin Firth shooting a church full of white supremacists while "Free Bird" blared away on the soundtrack. But sandwiched between so many grim reminders of death, it feels wildly out of place.

The big finale also features some grand adventure, with death-defying leaps and an evil lair ruled over by our big bad. (His identity is hidden, but it will be obvious to even the least attentive viewer.) There are also goats. So. Many. Goats. Again, this feels par for the course for a franchise that featured an extended cameo by Elton John as himself. But The King's Man strains against the attempts to take the series in a more mature direction.

In terms of scale and intensity, this might be Matthew Vaughn's sharpest film yet. But in terms of mastering tone, it's a mess.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.