Movie/review

The King’s Man Review: A Wickedly Creative Origin Story to the Kingsman Franchise

The King’s Man is a wickedly creative origin story that reimagines the cause of World War I. Matthew Vaughn, creator of the Kingsman franchise and director of all the films, gets zanier in the third installment. The film takes unscrupulous historical figures and allies them in an evil plot for maximum carnage. It swings wildly from violent to hysterical with gut punch surprises. There are truly shocking and unnerving twists. The King’s Man may bite off more than it can chew, but it’s an entertaining ride from start to finish.

In 1914 London, Lord Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a decorated war hero who embraced pacifism, is approached by General Kitchener (Charles Dance) of the British military. Someone has been stoking vitriol between the cousins who run Europe’s most powerful countries. King George of The United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia, and Tsar Nicholas of Russia, all played superbly by Tom Hollander, are at each other’s throats. The English believe that the German and Russian primary advisors, Erik Jan Hanussen (Daniel Bruhl) and Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) are involved in a conspiracy.

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Lord Oxford was keenly aware of Europe teetering on war. He’d long established a secret network of servants to keep tabs on the wealthy elite. His trusted maid (Gemma Arterton) and valet (Djimon Hounsou) spearhead the clandestine efforts. Lord Oxford decides to visit Russia with his son, Conrad (Harris Dickinson), to further investigate the mysterious hold Rasputin has on the Tsar. Conrad does not share his father’s beliefs. He’s chomping at the bit to fight “For King and Country.” The Oxford clan’s encounter with Rasputin stirs a hornet’s nest of treachery. A diabolical mastermind controls a web of infiltrators leading the world to bloody conflict.

The King’s Man WWI redux plot goes beyond wacky. Matthew Vaughn’s (Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class) versions of Rasputin and Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner) had me laughing out loud. Their flamboyance borders on the ridiculous. The laughs turn to gasps when blood starts to spurt from gaping wounds. The King’s Man, just like the previous iterations, is an insanely violent film. The action scenes vary from swashbuckling duels to huge battles. The mixture of comedy and slaughter continues to be a hallmark of the franchise. It veers overboard at times, but I think that’s the appeal. Rasputin’s ballet-inspired, dance-fighting pirouettes has to be seen to be believed.

I am an unabashed fan of Ralph Fiennes. He gets another chance to play a Bond-esque persona here. Fiennes camped it up as John Steed in the awful 90s, The Avengers remake. His turn as Lord Oxford is brilliant and sophisticated. The character has exceptional combat skills, but uses them only as a last resort. The relationship with his son and reason for pacifism becomes a central theme to the story. This subplot ends in an unexpected place. Fiennes brings eloquence, toughness, and heart to the film. The King’s Man is a production of Marv Studios. It will be released exclusively in theaters on December 22nd from 20th Century Studios.

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