Not since the Austin Powers trilogy has there been a big budget spy spoof of any note. Two lukewarm tries for Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English and Saturday Night Live flop MacGruber were high profile failures in the years since, but with James Bond so serious in the Daniel Craig era there’s plenty of ammunition for a direct hit. Step up director Matthew Vaughn who again uses a graphic novel as his source material as he did with Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. But for all of Kingsman: The Secret Service’s self-referential in-jokes and winks to the genre, its violent tendencies and slap-dash plot make for a surprisingly dull ride.
The casting of Colin Firth as Harry Hart, codenamed Galahad, a stiff-upper-lip British spy in an independent international intelligence agency called the Kingsman, is perfect – he can carry off the required unflinching dedication to serving his country with ease and does a sterling job of taking centre stage in a massive brawl in a church. You’ll be shocked how effectively Vaughn gets Firth kicking ass by taking advantage of surrounding props and his gadgetry. Meanwhile Michael Caine is ideal as the esteemed head of the Kingsman, the aptly-named Arthur, and there’s an amusing turn by Samuel L. Jackson as baddie Valentine, a hyper-rich, Google Glass wearing super villain with a crackpot plan for world domination, a hatred of violence and a lisp.
Kingsman’s violent tendencies and slap-dash plot make for a surprisingly dull ride.
With a cameo from an unrecognisable Mark Hamill and Mark Strong in support, you’d hope Kingsman is onto a winner. Yet, for all its cleverness, the supporting story which sees Kingsman-wannabe Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton) try to pass tests against other potential new recruits for the sole vacant position on the team sits uneasily with the ultra violence while the banter between the teenagers is tiresome. You can guess the twists and what begins as a refreshing spy spoof like the original Austin Powers soon gives way to the smugness that accompanied its second sequel Goldmember.
Yes there’s car chases, gadgets galore, high stakes action and an evil henchwoman with a nod to a certain Paralympic sprinter for gimmick value plus a glossy sheen to every scene, but Kingsman can’t decide whether to be family-friendly by championing decency towards each other or to show its cool to fight your way out of any precarious situation. There were two films here: together they make for a disappointing pairing.