The King’s Man — a Prequel No One Asked For

The Kingsmen series of movies is interesting. The general consensus is that the first movie is great, and the second movie is only okay. I personally enjoyed both films. I think they are fun, silly flicks full of great action scenes. They aren’t perfect, but it’s a nice change from the superhero fodder that fills theatres. Imagine my surprise when I logged onto Hulu and saw the prequel, The King’s Man, was streaming.

I’ll let you in on a secret. This series is called Saturday Night At the Movies, but that doesn’t mean I watch them on Saturday night. I know, it’s scandalous. However, with The King’s Man, the wonderful wife and I kicked our feet up, drinking a few beers from our favorite local brewery, Proof, on a kid-free Saturday night.

The King's Man movie poster

What’s The King’s Man?

The Kingsman films were about an uber secret, non-governmental spy agency that worked to save the world. They were posh British men and women who worked to preserve peace and order. They had James Bond-like adventures around the world, learned cool martial arts, and used awesome guns.

The King’s Man acts as a prequel to the first two films and starts in 1902 during the Second Boer War. Here we establish our main character, the Duke of Oxford, Orland, played by the always awesome Ralph Fiennes. He works with the Red Cross and seems dedicated to being a merciful man and a pacifist.

The King's Man - Rasputin
Rasputin freaking rules.

Trauma occurs, a vow is made, and we get a time jump to the eve of WW1. Orlando, his son Conrad, and two faithful servants, Shola (an awesome knife-wielding Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (a posh gun-slinging Gemme Arterton), find themselves at most of the main events leading up to World War 1.

They are there at the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, interact with Rasputin, and try to stop the war. As we know, they can’t and don’t. The war is apparently the work of a Scottish nationalist who hates the Aristocracy. He’s recruited people from around the world to work for him. This includes Rasputin, Gavrilo Princip, Erik Jan Hanussen and even Lenin. He’s mysterious, evil, and vicious.

Spies With Eyes

The movie is, uhm, well odd. In the beginning, it’s a campy action flick. We have this crazy Scot whose face remains unseen, a crazy Rasputin, and in general, the characters just chew the scenery every time we see them. Even the world leaders, the king, the Kaiser, and Tsar are larger than life.

The King’s Man uses real people, including Secretary of War Lord Herbert Kitchener, King George, Woodrow Wilson, Alfred Dupont, and many more. The accuracy of their portrayals is likely very low, but still an interesting choice.

The King's Man, Polly with a rifle
Polly acts as our resident gun slinger.

Rasputin, in particular, is fantastic. He’s this crazed monk that’s a giant and total badass. He’s delightfully weird, funny, and even a little intimidating. Rasputin is played by Rhys Ifans and absolutely rules.

Ralph Fiennes does a fantastic job as Orlando, a character haunted by loss and a violent past. He even portrays a man struggling with wanting peace and not wanting to use violent means to achieve it. He is oddly complicated for the film and struggles to figure out what a gentleman truly should be.  I really dug him as Orlando.

Do You Have a Tone?

The problem with The King’s Man is that the tone is all over the place. Forgive me, but spoilers are to follow. Throughout the first act, The King’s Man is a fun romp. Orlando’s son wants to join the military and fight in the war, but Orlando won’t allow him. He brings him into this spy network established by Polly and Shola involving the servants of royalty. We see the first inkling of a non-governmental intelligence agency.

This leads them to Russia. The scenes in Russia with Rasputin are fantastic and my favorite parts of the film. They, of course, come to kill him. Orlando plans to use Conrad to seduce the monk, then poison him. The plan goes to hell, and everything changes. Much like real-life, Rasputin is poisoned, shot, stabbed, drowned, and it takes all of the others, Shola, Polly, Conrad, and Orlando, to kill the monk.

The King's Man - Maxim Pron
A little Maxim Pron feels appropriate

That’s the highlight of the film. Following that, the film becomes super dark for a bit. I’ll avoid spoilers, but it feels like a gut punch because it changes so quickly and brashly. It loses all its camp, or most of it, and becomes a World War 1 movie.

Then, all of a sudden, The King’s Man becomes a campy romp once more. I had to rub my neck due to the whiplash. The ending twist is silly, and even just a little thought to the logistics of the whole endeavor kills the whole thing. It’s easily the worst of the three films, which is a shame because the actors do a great job with what they have.

The Guns of The King’s Man

The movie wasn’t great, but what about the guns? Thye did a fantastic job with the firearms. This includes the accuracy of the weapons used in the film. For example, Princip used the FN Model 1910 to assassinate the Archduke and his wife in real life. In the film, it’s an FN Model 1910 we see laying on the ground after the assassination.

The Steyr used in The King's Man movie
The Steyr used in The King’s Man.

The Brits use the famed Lee-Enfield No.1 MK III bolt action rifle while the Germans carry the Gewehr 1898 rifles. We see a Maxim gun and the Vickers variant, as well as a Luger, a Lewis gun, and even a tiny little Webley and Scott Mk1 handgun.

The Kings Man Webley pistol
The Webley is downright cute.

Most importantly, the firearm chosen by Orlando at the end gives us a glimpse into the future of Kingsman firearms. The King’s Man wields a Steyr M1912 pistol that wears a brass-colored flare launcher. This appears to be the great grandfather of the modern Kingsmen pistol, a TT-33 With an under-barrel shotgun.

The King's Man Steyr M1912
Ralph Fiennes also gives a strong performance.

The Steyr M1912 is a robust pistol in the 9x23mm Steyr cartridge, although, during WW1, they produced the pistol in the more powerful 9mm luger so it could be a standard 9mm. The Steyr is a single-action-only gun that uses a fixed magazine. Shooters had to reload the magazine via stripper clips and held eight rounds of ammunition.

It also looks unique and cool, and let’s face it, and hero guns need to be unique and cool.

The Future of The King’s Man

They sequel bait pretty hard, with a few well-known actors having rather small parts. Hell, the after-credits scene is uhm, well, interesting. Will there be a second King’s Man? I have no clue, and I’m still waiting on my Statesmen spinoff.

Have you streamed The King’s Man? What do you think? Drop us a line below.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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