Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: St. Vincent vs. Kingsman: The Secret Service, two films that feature unconventionally nurturing male mentors.
PremiseSt. Vincent features Bill Murray as a drunk and irritating war veteran whose anger-inducing disposition and antics make him a contender for the worst neighbor in Brooklyn. When a new single mother-son duo moves in next door, he somehow finds himself babysitting the boy for $11 an hour, mostly because he has overdrawn his bank account. While Murray’s character, the titular St. Vincent de Van Nuys, initially finds the job tedious and has no knowledge on how to adequately care for a tween (his idea of wholesome after-school activities mostly involves jaunts to the racetracks and strip clubs), the two slowly start to bond, and a father/son-esque relationship ensues.
Crossing over the Atlantic, Kingsman: The Secret Service revolves around a brilliant-but-troubled youth, Eggsy, who is recruited by Harry Hart to join an independent national intelligence agency of James Bond-like proportions. Despite his background in petty crime and drugs, Eggsy is selected to apply for the elusive “Kingsmen.” In turn, he must face a series of life-threatening challenges during “the most dangerous job interview in the world” (being tied to active train tracks and jumping from an airplane without a parachute, for starters). While Eggsy is slightly out of place among the snooty recruits (a classic Eton-Cambridge vs. Hackney showdown), his mentor and confidant Hart is there by his side, ensuring him he is worthy of a place in the world of high-tech espionage. Bill Murray being cranky is all very well, but really who doesn’t like a spy-action film starring high-quality actors?Advantage: Kingsman: The Secret Service
CastBoth films are aided by fantastic casts. Somewhere between crashing engagement photos and playing golf in PBR pants, Murray is lending his acting chops to the leading role in St. Vincent. Melissa McCarthy finally steps out of her typecast role as the “zany, bonkers woman” to play the sane single mother, Maggie, which she does wonderfully. Newbie Jaeden Liberher debuts as the pint-sized Oliver, who, by any indication of the trailer, will have a long career ahead of him. Naomi Watts and Chris O’Dowd fill out the supporting roles as a Russian stripper and devout teacher-priest, respectively.
Meanwhile in foggy London, the dashing Firth lures in newbie Taron Egerton—like Liberher, this will be his first film role— with an array of guns, hand-grenades, and impeccably-tailored suits. The always-fantastic Firth aside, Kingsman: The Secret Service also benefits from the acting expertise of Michael Caine, who plays—what else?—a wise, old spy with infinite knowledge, and Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a potentially villainous and very flamboyant character. Elton John, Adele, and David Beckham are reportedly going to make cameo appearances, too. As the star power is just about equal for both films, we’ll lean over to favor St. Vincent, as the characters are far more unique and diversified.Advantage: St. Vincent
The Soundtrack Fans of the female singer-songwriter St. Vincent will be disappointed to learn that none of her songs made it into the trailer (a wasted meta moment, surely). But St. Vincent features quite the tunes, regardless. Norman Greenbaum’s classic “Spirit in the Sky” sets up the beginning of Vincent and Oliver’s relationship, with Classified’s funky rap song “Inner Ninja” following suit. The wonderfully whimsical “Further On” by Bronze Radio Return closes, with scenes of Vincent and Oliver’s newfound smile-inducing relationship—jukebox dance parties and wheelchair races—accompanying it .
Kingsman: The Secret Service only features one song, but boy, is it good. The vocals that Jim Morrison provides for The Doors’ psychedelic rock anthem “Five To One” serves as the perfect backdrop to the gritty-yet-posh underground world of espionage. The pumping bass builds the suspense, while the commanding chorus is a brilliantly appropriate battle song for a barrage of bullets and explosives. St. Vincent has the advantage, though, as the three songs combine harmoniously for a feel-good vibe. Advantage: St. Vincent
Originality British spy dramas have no doubt been exhausted in film these past few years—some good (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and some bad (Johnny English Reborn). Kingsman: The Secret Service benefits being adapted from the very well received 2012 comic book series of the same name, which was created by noted comic book artists Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. St. Vincent, contrarily, falls victim to the somewhat overdone “curmudgeon-suddenly-has-a-heart” storyline. While neither film is truly original, do we really need another About a Boy-esque film, with Murray as a more hedonistic Hugh Grant? At least the spy genre is much broader. Advantage: Kingsman: The Secret Service
The Mentee Lieberher’s Oliver is an adorably innocent 12-year old who’s still navigating the facets of life; this includes learning what a “lady of the night” is and how to appropriately defend himself against the schoolyard bullies (get Vincent to break the bullies’ skateboards in half, obviously). He even has to deal with going to a Catholic school despite his Jewish religion—don’t make him say the opening prayer, because he won’t know what to do. A father figure is what he needs, and he ends up getting that through Vincent. Egerton’s Eggsy is on a completely different, less cute route. A protégé to Firth’s Hart, the 20-something Eggsy gets saved from a potential life of crime and sin; he, in turn, starts to redeem himself through the guidance of Hart by learning the ins and outs of the spy world, operating at the highest level of discretion (step one, learn how to operate an incognito hand-grenade in the shape of a lighter). The familial mentorship in St. Vincent is far more relatable than the kill-or-be-killed world of foreign reconnaissance and gadgetry in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Just about every 12-year old lad goes through what Oliver is currently experiencing. Advantage: St. Vincent
The Verdict Firth and Murray have very strong respective fanbases, so both of these films will surely generate box office success. But with an all-star cast, relatable life lessons and poignant relationships, St. Vincent has won us over—and it didn’t need the pageantry to. Winner: St. Vincent