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The King’s Man (Movie Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film

SUMMARY

A disappointing prequel to the 'Kingsman' film franchise that finds the future founder of this spy organization go after a terrorist group that is trying to disrupt the relationships between Britain, Germany and Russia and keep the United States from rendering assistance to the Allies. This strong cast deserved a better script than the one given them by Matthew Vaughn.

Writer-director-producer Matthew Vaughan’s third installment in the highly successful Kingsman franchise is a prequel to its two predecessors. The King’s Man opens during the Boer War in South Africa where Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), wife Emily (Alexandra Maria Lara) and young son Conrad (Alexander Shaw) are on a Red Cross mission. A sniper shoots Emily but, before she dies, she makes Orlando promise to keep Conrad from ever going to war.

Twelve years pass and Orlando has created a spy organization with two of his servants Polly Watkins (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou)–that will be the precursor to the Kingsman organization–to protect the UK from what will become World War I. Orlando has his friend and Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener (Charles Dance) prevent Conrad (Harris Dickinson) from enlisting in the British Army.  Later, Conrad and Orlando witness the event that led to WW I, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Ron Cook) in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip (Joel Basman), a member of the terrorist group “The Flock” headed by “The Shepherd” (Matthew Goode). The Flock schemes to have Germany and Britain fight each other and to cause Russia to drop of the alliance. At their clifftop meeting place, they are joined by the Russian monk Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), advisor to Tsar Nicholas (Tom Hollander) who will make this happen.

Conrad learns of Rasputin’s plot to get Russia out of the war and informs Kitchener who sets off for Russia only to have his ship torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. Oxford takes Conrad, Shola, and Polly to Russia on a successful mission to kill Rasputin. US President Woodrow Wilson (Ian Kelly) will not join the war effort because he is being blackmailed with film footage showing him having an affair with another Shepherd agent Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner). Later, Orlando will recover the film and President Wilson agrees to send US forces into the conflict.

Now a Grenadier Guard, Conrad exchanges uniforms with another soldier Archie Reid (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and undertakes a dangerous mission to bring back a message from a wounded British agent. On his return to the trenches, a sentry mistakes him for a German agent and kills him. As Orlando grieves for his lost son, he resolves to locate The Flock’s headquarters and battle the terrorists to the death.

Unfortunately for this lavish and visually stunning period film, the storyline goes off the rails nearly from the beginning.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to have Tom Hollander impersonate all three monarchs (real-life first or third cousins) should have reconsidered as photographs show only slight resemblances among this trio. While there is a modicum of suspense surrounding the identity of The Shepherd, those with keen hearing will readily recognize the voice of another of the characters in this cast. What troubled me more was having a nearly 60-year-old Ralph Fiennes appear to become a sort of superhero or giving Rhys Ifans’s mad monk the agile moves of an accomplished ballet dancer. Really? I also did not get the scene where Conrad, wearing a proper British uniform and speaking unaccented English, gets taken for a German spy. Really??  I cannot hold a generally strong cast to blame for this film’s numerous shortcomings. Rather, I must hold Matthew Vaughn accountable for these lapses in judgment as he has taken on a piece of history far too big for the context in which he has attempted to place it.  The first two Kingsman films were also scenic extravaganzas, but their over-the-top action was far better pulled off and they made no pretenses of having any basis in history.  I still occasionally watch these earlier two films on their respective 4K UHD discs in my video library. I will not be watching this one again in any format.

The King’s Man is now streaming on HBO Max and Hulu


  • Rating Certificate: R (for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language and some sexual material)
  • Studios & Distributors: 20th Century Studios | Marv Films | Marv Studios
  • Country: USA | UK
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 131 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Director: Matthew Vaughn
  • Written By: Matthew Vaughn
  • Release Date: 18 February 2022 (streaming)
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The King’s Man (Movie Review)A disappointing prequel to the 'Kingsman' film franchise that finds the future founder of this spy organization go after a terrorist group that is trying to disrupt the relationships between Britain, Germany and Russia and keep the United States from rendering assistance to the Allies. This strong cast deserved a better script than the one given them by Matthew Vaughn.
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