If you’ve seen early trailers for Kingsman: The Secret Service, you’ve no doubt seen what appears to be the most stereotypical British movie ever made. The film riffs on British cinema’s history of the gentlemen spy with Colin Firth, an actor who’s made a career out of playing characters of class and high society. The trailers project the idea of a film that will play note for note into the American image of British culture.
Which is why the film’s soundtrack is a part of the larger surprise that Kingsman turns out to be. Contrary to the film advertised, the movie’s embrace of British culture is wholly contemporary. Our protagonist, Eggsy, comes not as the product of some prestigious university, but the council estates of Millwall, a character who spends his days rooting for his local football club and getting pissed up at the pub. While this doesn’t sound radically different, the film’s use of language and music is what makes it’s image of British youth culture feel so real. The character speaks in a thick cockney accent with slang that might alienate some US audiences, but is authentic. References are made to shows like Jermey Kyle and Eastenders, and the soundtrack is filled with Grime music.
The musical motif that soundtracks Eggsy throughout the film is the 2009 Dizzee Rascal hit, “Bonkers.” The song was a massive anthem in England upon it’s release, cementing Rascal as one of the country’s biggest stars, and bringing Grime music into the mainstream. The decision to associate the film’s protagonist with such a uniquely national hit presents a more realistic and modern idea of British culture. The film also places this world in direct contrast with that of Firth’s character, not just for humor, but to slyly contradict to the portrait of British society painted by American films. A new British identity deserves a new kind of anthem, in Kingsman, that’s exactly what Dizzee Rascal’s music provides.