Those who missed those long ago days when a new James Bond movie caper delivered wit, cheeky irreverence, sex, sexism, gadgetry, satire, and outlandish action? Director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) and comic book writer Mark Millar have a gift for us all. It’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, their slick, violent, retro cool, veddy British action comedy spy thriller. The flick isn’t just a tip of the bowler hat to Bond and other ‘60s spy thrillers, though. It’s a franchise ready to happen.
Adapted by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic as a kind of self-aware riff on Pygmalion or, really, My Fair Lady, the writers keep things moving. Harry Hart (Colin Firth playing to Saville Row, martini dry perfection in Harry Palmer specs) is a top spy for a super-secret, super-elite group called the Kingsmen. Bucking the better judgment of his snooty superior (Michael Caine, wonderful in a small role), he chooses as a candidate to replace a fallen comrade an unlikely bloke in Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (a solid debut from new face on the block, Taron Egerton). The new kid — the cocky, two-fisted, mixed up, working class South London son of another deceased spy — gets pitted against young, rich, snooty male and female candidates in a do-or-die boot camp sequence uncomfortably reminiscent of X-Men: First Class. When, Egerton gets the nod, Firth mentors him on how to dress, act, and slaughter his enemies.
Samuel L. Jackson (in a campy, lisping performance that’s strictly a matter of taste) is the filthy rich, megalomaniacal super villain but the movie really snaps to life for the first time when Firth, in an astonishingly edited donnybrook choreographed to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” knifes, throttles, and immolates a congregation of Bible-thumping bigots and hypocrites. He barely creases his exquisite suit but the sequence may get some audiences’ nickers in a twist.
The whole movie explodes with toys and dazzle including shiny gadgets, a femme fatale equipped with blades for legs, filthy double entendre, sex jokes and old spy flick references, leading to an entire last third of complete, glorious, three-sheets-to-the-wind insanity. Kingsman: The Secret Service isn’t for the politically correct or the faint of heart. But, if you’re on its groovy, twisted wavelength, it’s a stone blast. ***