Colin Firth combines deadpan and action man in Matthew Vaughn’s lurid OTT romp that adores, then gleefully trashes, the 007 legend
What if a couple of filthy-minded young rascals with marker-pens and lurid imaginations broke into the Bond offices and set to work on a script.
The result would be the wanton excess of Kingsman: The Secret Service, a pastiche that cheekily winks at the sombre Scottish spy while pocketing his best tricks.
Director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman deliver a gut punch, rather than a love letter, to the spy genre much as their previous outing Kick-Ass plunged the knife into the superhero movie.
The result is a big, bold, ultra-violent twist on the gentleman spy which boasts a performance of epic deadpannery from Colin Firth and some bloody set pieces that will delight the fan boys who have migrated to the film from its source comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.
Kingsman does not disguise its roots. At one point Firth as super-spy Harry Hart dines on Big Macs with genius billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and together they pine for the days of 007 heaven and megalomaniac villains.
“Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. Give me a far-fetched plot any day,” says Hart.
Valentine’s bid to end climate change via ruthless genocide is that very far-fetched plot. The lisping loon even has his own one-trick sidekick in the shape of limbless Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) who dispatches foes with her egg slicer legs.
As Valentine spreads his twisted love, the Kingsman, a secret non-aligned league of impeccable gentlemen working out of a Savile Row tailors, is busy recruiting. Head man Arthur (Michael Caine) and gizmo wizard Merlin (Mark Strong) put a bunch of upper class wannabes through their paces.
Hart’s fish-out-of-water nominee – on account of a debt to his father – is Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton), Sarf London oik and tea leaf. He is plucked from his grubby council house where mum (Samantha Womack) is mascara’d with bruises from his brutal stepdad.
As Firth dispatches Eggsy’s track-suited nemeses at the Black Prince without ever losing control of his coiffure he impresses upon his apprentice that this is not about class warfare.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self,” he says, quoting Hemingway.
The film starts small scale on those gritty London streets then explodes like a Semtex sickbag. It has unyielding belief in its own lurid brilliance. The scale of its Bondian denouement – complete with Dr Evil lair and mind-blowing rendition of the 1812 overture – show that vision and budget worked in tandem.
All is not perfect with the film. Tonally, it wavers all over the place. The dry humour, so effective from Firth and so perfect for the film, is sadly expunged while Vaughn’s full-pelt direction sometimes veers into the indulgently gaudy or clunkily crude before landing in a pile that apes the worst of Bond – all dizzy blondes and smirking self-love.
Still, this is one that plays shamelessly to the gallery. A wild car chase plays out to Dizzy Rascal’s thumping Bonkers. A song never felt more appropriate.
Kingsman – The Secret Service | (15) 128mins | ★★★★✩