The King's Man is a messy prequel marred by mishmash tones

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·Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
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The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)
The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou and Charles Dance

2.5 out of 5 stars

Runtime: 131 mins

Rating: NC16

Release date: 30 December in Singapore and Malaysia

Director Matthew Vaughn has always wanted to make a classic espionage movie, and he made that known in 2014 when he chose to make Kingsman: The Secret Service over X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In Kingsman: The Secret Service, we were introduced to Harry Hart (played by Colin Firth), a suave gentleman spy, and Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin (played by Taron Egerton), a kid from the wrong side of the tracks desperately in need of a father figure. Harry recruited Eggsy, trained him to be both a gentleman and a spy. Alongside their Kingsman cohort, the pair took down evil tech billionaire Richmond Valentine. In the 2017 sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we met the organisation’s American equivalent in the likes of The Statesman, with the threat coming via enterprising drug dealer Poppy Adams.

The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)
The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)

In the new iteration, The King’s Man, the story kicks off more than a century earlier and plays out in the shadow of WWI, explaining how and why the Kingsman agency began.

This is when it gets messy: the prequel takes off on a different tangent by forging its own alternate history. The Duke of Oxford, Orlando (played by Ralph Fiennes), has created a vast network of spies as part of a covert intelligence operation. His 17-year-old son, Conrad (played by Harris Dickenson), is bent on joining the war to demonstrate his loyalty to his country much to his father’s disdain. The father-son duo then finds themselves embroiled in a conniving scheme concocted by the hilarious league of The World’s Most Evil Guys, with the film leading us on a slow train to the main villain Rasputin, played by an unrecognisable Rhys Ifans.

The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)
The King's Man. (PHOTO: 20th Century Studios)

Honestly, the only thing that kept me awake was the thrilling fight scene between Rasputin and Orlando together with his son Conrad, interspersed with lively pirouettes against the musical background of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. If you’ve always wondered how snappy and upbeat a pirouette can get, this is your chance to watch it on the big screen.

There seems to be a mishmash of tones and underdeveloped arcs. On the one hand, director Vaughn intends to capture the seriousness and casualties of the war (think Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk). Still, halfway through, it gets jumbled up in an arc of satire and goofy comedy. On the other hand, despite its brouhaha, Fiennes, together with supporting cast members Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou, manage to draw in viewers thanks to their strong performance in terms of their characters’ complexities despite the ridiculous and dull plot.

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