'Kingsman' a spy spoof to make James Bond proud 

click to enlarge Colin Firth plays a dapper spy in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” an entertaining and violent takeoff on James Bond films. - COURTESY 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Colin Firth plays a dapper spy in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” an entertaining and violent takeoff on James Bond films.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a big, boisterous and outrageously violent action comedy that, while not without excesses, delivers a winning dose of daring, vim and spy-movie love.

Director Matthew Vaughn, who has had fun with fairy tales (“Stardust”) and superheroes (“Kick-Ass”), embraces and lampoons the James Bond flick and other secret-agent fare in this vigorous romp, co-adapted with Jane Goldman from the comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

The story involves a secret British spy league called Kingsman, headquartered in a Savile Row tailor shop. Its well-dressed members view themselves as modern-day Round Table knights and consider the well-made suit (bulletproofed, if possible) akin to shining armor. Players include chief agent Arthur (played by – who else? – Michael Caine), Q-like Merlin (Mark Strong), and dapper but deadly Galahad, aka Harry Hart (Colin Firth).

To replace a fallen cohort, Harry brings aboard a hard-luck kid named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and transforms him, Pygmalion style, into a debonair gent. Eggsy takes part in the men’s mission to bring down Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a deranged tech mogul with a lisp, a lair,and a plan to exterminate most of humankind.

Harry and Valentine, while enemies, share a fondness for old spy films, and the 007 flicks aren’t as fun as they used to be, both men believe.

Vaughn, too, embraces the earlier Bond-and-beyond fare. An affectionate appreciation, the movie brims with silly gun poses, poison pens, deadly shoes, lighters, martinis and umbrellas like those carried by “Avengers” star Patrick Macnee. You may want to buy a pair of Harry Palmer glasses after the credits roll.

While the screenplay touches on issues such as global warming and class divisions, it’s short on pith or character development. The most substantial female character is Valentine’s assistant, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), a cartoonish presence with lethal blades for legs.

Extreme violence, which initially succeeds as shock comedy, eventually becomes almost counterproductive. A passage featuring an impaling and other mayhem committed in a Kentucky church approaches overkill.

But any movie in which heads explode to the strains of an Elgar patriotic march surely deserves credit for gusto. More often than not, as he keeps the action coming and juggles numerous topics, Vaughn delivers a vibrantly entertaining good time.

Among the cast, Firth (that’s right, of Mr. Darcy and “The King’s Speech” fame) is lighthearted fun as an action hero. Jackson is having a nutty blast as the maniacal but squeamish villain.

Newcomer Egerton fares solidly as Eggsy becomes the story’s driving force and evolves into a junior version of Firth, complete with tie and 1960s-style spectacles. Mark Hamill appears as a kidnapped professor.


Kingsman: The Secret Service

three stars

Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong

Written by Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Rated R

Running time 2 hours, 9 minutes

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Anita Katz

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