Kingsman: Rule Britannia!

by Mark Burger

Director Matthew Vaughn brings the same sort of brash, no-holds-barred approach that he brought to the Kick-Ass films in Kingsman: The Secret Service, an outrageous big-screen adaptation of Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar’s comic book The Secret Service “” only the end result is far more satisfying.

Taron Egerton plays Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, an aimless though clean-cut juvenile delinquent with an “Artful Dodger”-like ability to extricate himself from the trouble he frequently gets himself into.

Such resourcefulness will be put to use when he is recruited by Harry Hart, AKA “Galahad” (Colin Firth), a veteran Kingsman operative whose own life was saved years ago by Unwin’s father, who perished as a result. The Kingsman are a secret organization whose members (all named for members of King Arthur and the Round Table) are devoted to preserving democracy around the world, while also remaining perfect English gentlemen, of course. “Manners maketh the man,” Galahad preaches.

Eggsy’s training is overseen by Galahad, Merlin (Mark Strong), and Arthur (Michael Caine), the latter of whom runs the whole show. And it’s not long before Eggsy’s training comes in very handy, for there’s a threat looming on the horizon, one that portends a unique (and messy) solution to overpopulation.

Sporting a wild lisp and an even wilder wardrobe (replete with tipped cap), Samuel L. Jackson steamrolls through the proceedings as Richmond Valentine, the obligatory “corporate megalomaniac” (per Galahad) who’s nothing if not wicked and nasty. In one delightful sequence, Galahad and Richmond size each other up over a feast of McDonald’s fast food. Firth and Jackson are in prime form here. Although he’s certainly adept at comedy and drama, Firth has rarely had the opportunity to cut loose as he does here, and Jackson clearly revels playing a bombastic baddie who nevertheless grows queasy at the sight of blood.

The actors don’t get lost amid the gadgets, gizmos and guns (of which there are plenty); Sophie Cookson (in her screen debut) plays fellow Kingsman recruit Roxy, thereby giving evidence that the organization is open to both sexes, and Mark Hamill has an amusing appearance as an ill-fated scientist. Strong, rapidly becoming one of the most reliable actors around, is again first-rate “” let’s face it “” Michael Caine is beyond reproach.

The film is steeped in the trappings of the spy genre, with countless in-jokes and references to “The Avengers” (the TV series), “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Robert Ludlum’s Bourne franchise, and, of course, the James Bond series. With giddy, sometimes gory, abandon, Kingsman celebrates, exaggerates and even subverts the conventions of the genre. In no way is the film to be taken seriously “” a concept that seems to have been missed by its detractors. It’s a free-wheeling farce that delivers blazing action, off-color humor, and cheeky attitude to spare.