THE KING’S MAN – Review by Susan Granger

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This prequel to writer/director Matthew Vaughn’s previous comedy/action/adventure reveals the origins of the super-secret British agency headquartered in a discreet tailor’s shop on London’s fashionable Savile Row.

Set during World War I, the irreverent story revolves around Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), who is determined to prevent a nefarious cabal, led by The Shepherd, from annihilating Europe’s ruling class and creating anarchy.

Taking liberties with actual history, he and his patriotic son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) were riding in the carriage of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he’s assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.

In a bizarre bit of casting, Tom Hollander plays three first-cousins: England’s King George, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm and Russia’s Tsar Nicholas. Plus, there’s Charles Dance as Orlando’s war-minister mentor, Lord Kitchener.

Clues lead Orlando, accompanied by his loyal bodyguard Shola (Djimon Hounsou), to Russia, where he encounters the mad monk Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), who greets him with “Take your trousers off and sit down,” before licking a battle wound on the aristocrat’s thigh.

Weird – to say the very least – heralding an elaborate dance/fight sequence, set to the 1812 Overture.

As the swashbuckling plot progresses, villainous Rasputin’s legendary resilience is tested…and he’s not even the mysterious mastermind.

Problem is: the tone of Matthew Vaughn & Karl Gajdusek’s convoluted script is inconsistent and, therefore, confusing, bouncing between colonialism and pacifism, as pithy Orlando proclaims, “Nobility never came from chivalry. It came from being tough and ruthless.”

Yet, kudos to them for slyly inserting a super-efficient nanny (Gemma Arterton) who has organized a network of domestic servant-spies. But bickering Colin Firth’s Harry Hart and Taron Egerton’s Eggsy are sorely missed.

Do wait for a pivotal mid-credits scene, involving Erik-Jan Hanussen (Daniel Bruhl), Vladimir Lenin (August Diehl) and Adolf Hitler (David Kross).

FYI: The Kingsman concept can be traced back to Icon Comics, a Marvel imprint.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The King’s Man is an absurdly frenzied 5, exclusively in theaters.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.