Warning: Major plot spoilers ahead.
Sony’s The Interview will go down as one of the most controversial films ever produced, given the firestorm over its plot about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. So we are curious to watch how the world — and the U.S. in particular — reacts to Fox’s new action movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
(Seriously, stop reading here if you don’t want any of the film’s plot spoiled for you.)
The film stars newcomer Taron Egerton as Eggsy, a rebellious teen recruited into the titular U.K. spy agency by Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Meanwhile, a billionaire named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) pledges to give every citizen of the world free cellular and Internet service for life via phones his corporation distributes. What they don’t know is that Valentine can manipulate his global service network and turn the billions of users into bloodthirsty maniacs intent on killing everyone around them, so that he and a bunker-full of artistocratic types can inherit the Earth.
Early on in the film, before we know what exactly is afoot, Valentine is seen pitching his diabolical plan to world leaders he hopes to bring into his fold; this includes a quick shot of him shaking hands with a man at the White House who, though we only see him from the back, is clearly meant to be President Barack Obama.
Later on in the film, once Eggsy is able to foil the plot and overcome Valentine, we watch as his contingent of conspirators’ heads explode into colorful, gooey messes. We even watch as the Obama-esque leader’s head explodes. (Again, the character is never explicitly referred to as Obama in the film, but the resemblance is obvious.)
It’s an incendiary moment in an incendiary film, which is directed by Matthew Vaughn with the same style of frenetic energy and over-the-top violence as his 2010 superhero upstart Kick-Ass. The movie begs not to be taken too seriously – just see Jackson’s comedic lisp or his main henchwoman’s knack for slicing people in half with her steel prosthetic legs — but it’s a scene that will give moviegoers pause.
Watch the trailer for Kingsman:
Vaughn explained why he used the POTUS to IGN after an early screening in November. “The White House and Obama-ish president — there’s no other symbol about a global power than the White House,” he said. “If I used 10 Downing Street, most people would go, ‘What’s that little black door? Where is that? Who is that?’ So I needed to show that Valentine was — when you hear Valentine saying, ‘Politicians are s—t,’ you pull back and go, ‘Oh, f—k! He’s in the White House! This guy’s powerful.’”
Unlike The Interview or Death of a President — the controversial British docudrama that portrayed the assassination of George W. Bush — the Kingsman death isn’t a major plot point. Still, the cinematic killing of a current U.S. president is virtually unheard of in a major studio movie release.
Cue the conspiracy theorists, who will point out that the film is distributed by Fox, corporate kin to Obama-baiting Fox News. But it’s worth pointing out that Kingsman also delivers the type of strong eco-friendly messages you’d find on the left side of the political aisle. In another potentially eyebrow-raising scene, Valentine’s brainwashing technology is tested on a church full of what appears to fundamental Christians, who proceed to fight each other to death. Still, one UK writer from the right-leaning site Breitbart.com is in full support of the film and has already penned an editorial called “Eight Reasons Why You Have to See Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
In truth, Kingsmen probably has something to offend everyone.