You can understand how a spy thriller starring a dapper Colin Firth could be misjudged by some as a politely inoffensive cross between James Bond and My Fair Lady (both referenced in the film). But if you took notice of the little red sticker on the poster that says ‘something something, contains violence, something something, offensive language’, then the sight of limbs flying and the sound of ‘fuck’ bombs dropping shouldn’t come as a total surprise.
But alas, some punters still took offense.
(If you haven’t seen the film yet, this is your cue to leave the following spoiler mine field.)
Perhaps the film’s most boundary-nudging moment was with its church massacre scene. Following a trail of breadcrumbs, Colin Firth’s Galahad tracks Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine to a congregation filled with racist, anti-semitic, abortion-damning, atheist-scorning, potentially inbred humans. Valentine uses this site as a testing ground for his new device that makes people go ape-shit violent towards one another.
Of course, there’s also a Kingsman in the room, so you already know who’s going to win that fight. Then proceeds a fantastically choreographed action sequence that seemingly drops a helpless cameraman right in the middle of the chaos.
It’s a brutal scene played up for our enjoyment, and that can lead up to one feeling initially disturbed. Although these members of this particular church are easily recognised as vile scum to most people, they don’t deserve death, so should we feel uneasy seeing their demises so gleefully displayed?
The answer: Kingsman wants you to feel both. And it does it brilliantly.
Valentine’s plan was to tap into the human id, the violently animalistic and sex-hungry side of human nature. This is usually governed by our social filter, but Valentine’s device takes that filter away and amplifies our aggressive desires (using science!). In that state of mind, your only desire is to inflict pain on another human being.
Director Matthew Vaughn wants you to feel that taboo joy of being free from a social filter. How can you tell? Because they play God-damn ‘Freebird‘ when shit goes cray.
At the same time, this scene never lets go of the fact that what’s taking place is still really, really horrible, cutting to Eggsy, Merlin and even Valentine as they squirm in horror over the violence taking place.
When Galahad is left the victor, Valentine’s device ceases its grip on his mind. He too looks around in horror at what he (mostly) did.
When Valentine confronts Galahan afterwards, our hero blames Valentine for making him WANT to kill those people. It’s a horrible thing he would have had to live with, if it wasn’t for the fact that Valentine killed him right there. Thus, we never have to see Galahan’s regret really sink in.
So perhaps you did have fun seeing Colin Firth dispatch a church full of racist, anti-semitic, abortion-damning, atheist-scorning, potentially inbred humans who just happened to be Christians too. And perhaps you felt wrong about feeling that way when the last body hit the floor.
That’s good. It proves you’re human. And that’s exactly what this scene wanted from you.