Pastiching James Bond is hardly a new idea (see Woody Allen in the 1967 ‘Casino Royale’, not to mention the entire ‘Austin Powers’ franchise), but that hasn’t stopped writer-director Matthew Vaughn from trying his hand at a little counter-espionage with this full-throttle action comedy.
Colin Firth plays Harry Hart, one of an elite band of impeccably dressed crimefighters aligned with no specific government but steeped in old money and aristocratic privilege. When one of their number pops his clogs unexpectedly, Harry tries to fulfil an old promise by bringing latchkey bruiser Eggsy (Taron Egerton) into the Kingsman fold, with explosive consequences.
Never less than slick, precision-tooled multiplex entertainment, ‘Kingsman’ hews close to the formula Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman established in their superficially similar ‘Kick-Ass’: hyperspeed action, pithy one-liners and grotesque ultraviolence. Firth plays it straight up with a smirky twist, Egerton is a likeable frontman and there are winning cameos from Michael Caine as a shifty bureau chief and Mark Hamill as – get this – a fusty British science professor.
But like ‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Kingsman’ can leave a sour taste. The script has a penchant for nasty, lad’s-mag humour, while attempts to play on timely themes of privilege versus poverty fall flat thanks to a crass, reactionary depiction of working-class life. If all you’re after are sharp suits, quickfire gags and spectacular kill-shots (one unforgettable sequence is destined to go down in exploding-head history), ‘Kingsman’ is undoubtedly worth the ticket price. Just try not to think too much…