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.