Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The King's Man

Not the laugh fest you have come to expect. Interesting take on history AND some laughs.

The King's Man 

“Real power is not found running off to war. Real power lies in understanding who it is you're truly fighting, and how they can be defeated.”  Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes)

The tongue is not too far in the cheek with the semi-serious King’s Man starring Ralph Fiennes as the dapper but deadly Duke of Oxford, organizer of the sophisticated spy agency that in previous iterations was more satirical of spy stories. In this origin story, much of the film weaves history around WW I into a fiction about a few good men and women trying to stop the march to war.

The major historical figures are Kaiser Wilhelm, King George, and Tsar Nicholas—all played entertainingly by Tom Hollander. Not to be missed is Rhys Ifans as Rasputin, a diabolical force in getting the Soviet Union to withdraw from the war, to the delight of Germany and the dismay of England.

When Rasputin battles with Oxford, the screen is alive with Russian-style dancing-swordplay, Rasputin’s lusts, and plain old good dialogue. Director Matthew Vaughn allows his actors to express themselves wildly but with a modicum of Brit-like decorum fitting of the balance between dark history and playful replay.

Besides the memorable Rasputin swordplay, in the final act, when Oxford uses a new-fangled parachute to storm the supreme villain’s high mountain hide out, the stunt work is just short of breathless, coupled with CGI to give a Bondian feel to the spy shenanigans.

I was pleasantly surprised by the imaginative re-creation of history and the low-key humor, so evocative of the Brit stereotype. More than one commentator has suggested how apt Fiennes would be as the new Bond. I don’t know about that, but Fiennes sure does know his way around the screen.

“We are the first independent intelligence agency. Refined but brutal, civilized but merciless.” Duke of Oxford

The King’s Man

Director: Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class)

Screenplay: Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion)

Cast: Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List)

Run Time: 2h 10m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s WCBE 90.5 FM It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.