There’s a hilarious moment in the classic ‘80s comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles when Steve Martin has finally had enough of John Candy’s inane anecdotes. “When you’re telling these little stories,” he instructs Candy, “here’s a good idea… have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!” If only the makers of the new spy actioner Kingsman: The Secret Service had taken that advice. Despite all of its self-satisfied smugness, Kingsman neglects to give us a coherent story, consistent tone, or anything worth caring about. It’s ironic that a film trying so hard to be inventive and outrageous ends up being such a derivative bore.
The mysterious and secretive figure of Alan Turing has undergone something of a political and cultural renaissance in the UK over the past few years. A young mathematic prodigy, Oxford graduate, and cryptographer par excellence, he was ushered into the ultra top secret Bletchley Park programme during the Second World War and tasked with the impossible: to break the German military codes through a captured sequencer which could potentially offer billions of responses to any clandestine communication. Socially incompetent and ruthlessly dedicated, Turing willingly threw himself into the arena of cerebral combat, along the way erecting much of the intellectual and theoretical infrastructure of the modern computing world. But as a closeted homosexual his treatment at the hands of the authorities in the post-war period should cause the great British bulldog to hang its head in shame, with he and his team’s contribution to the continuation of civilisation remaining cloaked for over half acentury due to the Official Secrets Act. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown would later make an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated,” while the Queen granted him a posthumous pardon on Christmas Eve 2013.
Anyone who watches Welcome to the Punch will, at some point, feel the unerring prick of realization running up their spine. In full, the film is technically original, but in its parts, the seasoned moviegoer will recognize a number of elements from pretty much every crime drama released in the last 30 years. We have a dogged, Javert-like cop looking for revenge for a past slight, a conspiracy that reaches far and wide both within the force and within the world of big-city politics, and the sleek silvers and blues meant to point out the inherent, Michael Mann-esque moodiness on screen.