Anyone looking for a credible espionage thriller or a chirpy parody of the British intelligence agencies will be left disappointed by Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on the comic book series by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar.
For a start, it features an entirely fictional – and independent – spy agency, which Galahad (Colin Firth), one of its suave operatives, gleefully proclaims is free from the “bureaucracy” of Whitehall institutions. It is also neither thrilling nor particularly funny.
The latest venture from Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn – who also helmed Kick-Ass – is a genre clash between ropey action thriller and low-budget Britcom: a hotchpotch of self-conscious James Bond riffing (both reverential and mocking) and Austin Powers innuendo.
The film’s no-nonsense fight scene in an ordinary south London pub is a highlight, but elsewhere the violence and gore is gratuitous.
Meanwhile, scenes in which rough-edged Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is pitted against upper-crust rivals on a training programme to join the spy team result in a somewhat tired clash of classes.
The clunky intro and credits add to the B-movie Bond vibe, but the film does pick up pace when it emerges one of the elite group of Kingsman spies has been killed in action.
There’s little depth to the plot, forcing Vaughn to fall back on kid-in-a-sweet-shop gadgetry and high-energy stunt scenes.
Kingsman might have asked interesting questions about social mobility in the upper echelons of the British Establishment, had it not got waylaid by cheap tricks. It is good for puerile laughs, but expect little else.