Miffed at the grim turn the James Bond movies have taken since Daniel Craig took on 007’s licence to kill? Loved the audacious guilty-pleasure thrills of Kick-Ass? Tick those boxes and you’ll probably adore Kingsman: The Secret Service, a cheeky James Bond pastiche that fizzes with tongue-in-cheek humour and larky ultra-violence.
Unsurprisingly, the Kick-Ass team of comic-book author Mark Millar, director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman have their fingerprints all over this one, too. But where Kick-Ass was unmistakably American in tone and setting, their new venture is staunchly British to its core. The tale of a downtrodden chav transformed into a debonair secret agent, this is My Fair Lady remade as a spy thriller comedy.
Colin Firth’s Harry Hart is the story’s Henry Higgins (note the shared alliteration), an urbane toff who recruits Taron Egerton’s Sarf London hoodie Eggsy as a candidate to become a Kingsman, a member of a bespoke secret service agency that hides its true identity behind a Saville Row tailor’s and takes its chivalric code (and codenames) from King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.
While Eggsy is put through his paces at the Kingsmen training camp alongside a bunch of posh, public-school types, the machinations of the story’s Bond-like megalomaniac villain come into focus. Played with comic relish by Samuel L Jackson, Richmond Valentine is a lisping tech billionaire with a squeamish aversion to the sight of blood and an outrageously deadly plan for combating climate change.
To carry out his scheme he has on his payroll battalions of indistinguishable, eminently disposable goons and also, more strikingly, a sleekly lethal henchwoman called Gazelle (played by dancer Sofia Boutella from StreetDance 2), who dispatches her victims with razor-sharp prosthetic legs and is even more deserving of the Blade Runner tag than Oscar Pistorius. Yet the violence meted out by Gazelle is far from the most brazen of the film’s irreverently brutal acts – some of which are almost guaranteed to cause offence in some quarters.
You can, however, enjoy the film’s performances without a qualm. Jackson’s hip-hop attired tycoon is a hoot, Egerton has a winning swagger, and there is solidly entertaining support from the likes of Michael Caine (in Bond terms, the story’s M) and Mark Strong (its Q). Best of all is Firth, dispatching a pub-load of thugs with his brolly and cutting an immaculately well-tailored dash with panache.
Certificate 15. Runtime 129 mins. Director Matthew Vaughn.
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