Now that was fun. Yet another comicbook based movie in a year that is set to be saturated with them, of course, but Kingsman stands out amongst them as a return to the classic days of spy thrillers. It is, of course, a pastiche of Bond, Danger Man and its like, but gloriously over-the-top in a way the genre hasn't been since the early eighties. Absolutely a comedy, it is nonetheless a gripping action movie with some nailbiting set pieces. It is violent, of course; god, is it violent. Yet the violence reaches such ludicrous extremes that it becomes utterly laughable. Indeed, one sequence, which by rights should be gruesome in the extreme, is played as a riot of music and colour that's almost Pythonic in its humour. The final climactic battle, set against the backdrop of worldwide, uncontrolled violence is as brutal as the film gets, and even in this is tongue kept in cheek.
I'm not familiar with The Secret Service, the original comic series upon which the film is based. I am generally not keen on the more recent work of Mark Millar, full as it is of grotesque and sexual violence, but his ideas are often brilliant. From what I understand, Kingsman diverts significantly from the source material, so much so that we're really watching a Matthew Vaughn creation. As with KickAss, he and Jane Goldman have taken the basics and turned them into a storming screenplay. For all the visual spectacle and the wit of the script, this would fail were it not for the strength of the cast. Michael Caine, Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson are all as good as they ever are; for all their overexposure, the reason they are continually cast in major films is that they will always draw crowds and always deliver great performances. Firth, in particular, is spot on as the Steed-like Harry Hart, most skilled of the Kingsmen, while Jackson is hilarious as the lisping Valentine, a megalomaniac Steve Jobs.
There are excellent turns by Vaughn's reliable favourite Mark Strong (in a non-villainous role for once), the stalwart Mark Hamill (not playing himself, as he would in a strict adaptation of the book, I am told), and young Sophie Cookson as Kingsman recruit Roxie. The film relies on its star though. Taron Egerton is fantastic as rough-as-nails recruit Eggsy, pure hard-edged charm throughout. Some people have said they don't want to see the film, having seen the trailers and considering it chavvy, which is so spectacularly missing the point it's unreal. Kingsman is profoundly anti-snobbery, and equally against reverse snobbery, hammering home the point that it's by their background that someone should be judged, but their character. And their ability to blow people's heads off.