Kingsman: The Secret Service Direction: Matthew Vaughn Actors: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton Rating: 3/5
A slap-happy espionage yarn which simultaneously sends-up and pays tribute to the British spy thrillers of the 1960s (notably the Harry Palmer trilogy featuring Michael Caine) as well as the Roger Moore-era Bond capers, Kingsman... stands on its own as a knock-'em-dead pulp fiction.
The outlandish script, co-authored by director Vaughn with his regular writing partner Jane Goldman, is loosely derived from the comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.
Close on the heels of the late-career high jinks of Keanu Reeves (John Wick) and Liam Neeson (Taken), the 54 year old Colin Firth displays surprising new action credentials as a suave secret agent.
The member of a shadowy London-based intelligence organization, the gentleman spy, code-named Galahad (interestingly, all the operatives have Arthurian monikers), recruits a teenage hoodlum (Welsh newcomer Egerton, impressive) into the agency's rigorous training programme.
After undergoing a series of grueling initiation tests like sky-diving without a parachute, the newly-minted superhero is tasked with foiling the plans of a megalomaniac (Samuel L. Jackson, too campy for comfort), hell-bent on world domination through --- you'd better believe this --- SIM cards.
Watch Kingsman review: A must-watch, unless you are put off by excessive violence
Equipped with an arsenal of killer gizmos, the former delinquent decimates a battalion of baddies including a henchwoman (Sofia Boutella) fitted with razor-sharp prosthetic legs.
Besides bursts of gratuitous violence, the script is peppered with a skewed sense of humour and a host of filmic references. Adhering to genre conventions, including a preposterous late-act switcheroo, Vaughn (Layer Cake) directs the proceedings at a furious pace.
Among the nastier interludes count the attack on a bigoted church congregation and the heads of a villainous horde exploding in colourful clouds of smoke.
Attired in impeccably tailored suits Colin Firth handles the close-quarters action stuff with savage grace. The superlative supporting cast features Michael Caine (yes, the one-time Harry Palmer) as the stiff upper-lipped overseer and Mark Strong as the hi-tech trainer.
Overall, Kingsman... makes for a fun-filled matinee.