Anyone who’s seen 2010’s merrily profane superhero flick Kick-Ass knows that director Matthew Vaughn doesn’t spoof genres. He amps them up. His spy comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service is based, like Kick-Ass, on an irreverent comic-book series by Mark Millar, and Vaughn has cooked it into pure fanboy ecstasy— a muscle-flexing spectacle of cartoon violence and cheeky attitude, which announces its cleverness at every turn. Jokes are cracked about the seriousness of Bond and Bourne. One character flat-out says, “This ain’t that kinda movie.”
But it operates by following all the beats—and more than a few clichés—of this kinda movie. The title gents are a squad of finely tailored British spooks, including the world-weary Harry (Colin Firth), who’s overseeing nine recruits as they go through superspy boot camp to replace a fallen agent. Meanwhile, a tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) plots to cull the population by activating a rage-inducing mindcontrol app on everyone’s phone.
Vaughn loves the gonzo sight of a knockedout tooth flying in slo-mo across the screen. His judgment sometimes goes sailing too. A sex joke in the film’s back end (and about that part of the anatomy) panders to the most puerile of the target male demographic. The lisp that Jackson speaks with, neon-highlighting his supervillain’s wimpiness, grows old fast. But his henchwoman (Sofia Boutella), an assassin with lethal gams, is sharper than any recent Bond baddie, and a sequence in which Harry slaughters a churchful of rednecks hits the right anarchic note, showing Firth, at 54, with the balletic prowess of someone half his age. Speaking of young men, newcomer Taron Egerton, playing Harry’s protégé, delivers a star-making performance flush with the kind of charm and unexpected gravitas that no amount of flashy filmmaking can fake. B