Just as Kick-Ass gave the superhero genre a good shakeup, so too Kingsman: The Secret Service gives the spy thriller a damn fine poke with a sharp and pointy stick. Spy films have become so serious and po-faced – just look at Daniel Craig's Bond, so the Jason Bourne films. So trust the wonderful team of Mark Miller, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn to inject a bit of fun and silliness – and loads of violence – back into the espionage genre.
Gentleman spy Harry Hart (Firth) – codenamed Galahad – has been in the business for many years. And it is a business – Kingsman is a secret service that is privately owned and run, without having to answer to any government. When agent Lancelot is killed in action, the service needs to recruit a replacement, and so Harry brings in as his candidate young south London thug Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, much to the disapproval of service boss Chester "Arthur" King (Caine). But under the tutelage of Merlin (Strong), Eggsy – whose father was also a Kingsman – shows that he might just have the right stuff.
Kingsman: The Secret Service feels a little like the Roger Moore James Bond films mixed with Austin Powers and a touch of Danny Dyer laddism thrown in for good measure. It's got energy and verve aplenty, with great performances all around. Firth is perfect as the dapper super agent who is far deadlier than he seems, while Egerton is an exceptional new young talent with a touch of the Matt Damon about him. Jackson is superb as the tech billionaire villain of the piece, with a comedy lisp and an aversion to blood – and yes, even the requisite super-villain lair hidden in the mountains. Stong stands out as the Q of the piece, and a very nice touch is Cookson's Roxy – a tough and worthy agent in her own right, and not just there as a piece of eye candy.
With much to say about the British class system, wealth and privilege, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an exhilirating thrillride that reminds us of what spy movies used to be – and, thanks to Miller, Vaughn and Goldman, can be again.
EXTRAS ★★★ The six-part behind-the-scenes feature Kingsman: The Secret Service Revealed (1:31:41); three image galleries; and the theatrical trailer.