This review originally appeared at Reel Spirituality

kingsmen_poster_200_296_84_s_c1In the first 15 minutes of the spy/action/adventure film Kingsman, a man is cut in half from top to bottom by a villain’s prosthetic legs which double as swords. He stands still for a moment before his two halves fall to either side, like Daffy Duck in so many Warner Brothers cartoons. In many ways Kingsman plays like a live action cartoon, at times only thinly tied to reality as we know it.

The action sequences in Kingsmen are excellently choreographed, and over the top in the best possible sense. The movie continues to find new ways to kill, maim, and dismember with glee. If you like exploding heads Kingsman is a must see. If you don’t like exploding heads, this is not the movie for you.

Though Kingsman mostly succeeds, two scenes in particular stand out as sore spots in an otherwise enjoyable film. Villain Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) tests his weaponry on a church that we are told is classified as a hate group. Though the congregants are certainly hateful, nothing we are shown to justify their classification as a hate group, and certainly not deserving of the battle royale that Valentine’s technology triggers.

The second, and much more problematic, scene comes toward the end of the film. Though not perfect,Kingsman had, up to this point, a mostly positive depiction of women. For example, the most qualified candidate for a vacant Kingsman spot was not the hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) but a female Roxy (Sophie Cookson). The film looses any good will it might have gained on this front by throwing in a princess who promises to reward Eggsy for saving the world with anal sex. Though intended as a joke playing off spy movie tropes, its handling here falls flat.

Overall, however, the film succeeds, thanks in part to an all-star cast including Colin Firth, Mark Hamill, Michael Caine, and Samuel L Jackson as a villain worthy of the best Bond movies. Valentine’s plot to save the earth means the destruction of most of its human population. Only a select few from the aristocracy are kept alive to continue the species.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a Kingsman in training, is tasked with stopping the megalomaniacal Valentine. Though the Kingsmen are themselves an organization of the upper class, Eggsy comes from decidedly humbler origins. In fact, the skills he learned before his Kingsman training are what keep him alive as Valentine enacts his plans.

Far from coming to save only the elite, Jesus came to seek and save all who are lost. In fact Jesus says that it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mat. 19:24). Instead, we are told to look out for the widows and the orphans (James 1:27) and to lend without expecting repayment (Luke 6:34).

It is easy to loose sight of our call to self-sacrificial love and to look out for our own interests instead. Like the Kingsmen organization, the Israelites, at times, moved from being the oppressed to being the oppressors, instead of demonstrating God’s unique way of being in the world.

In Kingsman the aristocracy did what they needed to ensure their own survival. This is in marked contrast with Christ, who humbled himself even to death on a cross in order to save the world. There may be those who think that radical social manipulation can lead to a better world, but Jesus suggests that the only way to true salvation comes with surrender to God and our humble walk with God.

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