Matthew Vaughn, writer and director of “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” has created a spy thriller that falls somewhere between James Bond and Austin Powers. The source material, Mark Millar’s snarky comic book “Secret Service,” calls for a degree of fun and frivolity with the story. It’s when Vaughn overindulges that the film struggles.
The moments that come closest to the classic days of 007 are those with Colin Firth turning in a stiff upper lip performance as a gentleman spy known as Galahad. He’s part of a super secret group that keeps the world safe.
Firth was born to play this upper crust defender of what’s right. His cool demeanor, presented in the perfectly tailored suit, makes James Bond look like a lower class police officer.
When one of the members of the secret service dies, a search starts for a replacement. One top candidate is Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a street-smart ruffian whose father was a former member of the spy team. Legacy means something to these chaps.
Just as he did with “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class,” Vaughn gets a little too enamored with the training process. It makes for a few good laughs and a couple of exciting stunts, but it hurts the tempo of the film.
From the cool spy gadgets to the driving soundtrack by Iggy Azalea and Ellie Goulding — that rivals John Barry’s work for the Bond films — much of “Kingsman” is so fun and action filled it shouldn’t be for your eyes only.
Where the film leaves you shaken — and definitely not stirred — is the way Samuel L. Jackson plays Valentine, the multibillionaire super villain who wants to wipe out most of the world population through their cellphones. He’s a bald cat away from being Dr. Evil with his cockeyed cap and ill advised decision to give the character a lisp.
When camp and couth clash, a price is always paid. The cost here is the kind of even flow that makes spy films such a fun ride. One of the biggest examples is a massacre in a Kentucky church.
The sequence starts out with fight scene choreography that would put the Bolshoi Ballet to shame. The scene both fortifies the dangers that are being faced by the bad man and the elegance of the good guys. But the scene takes on comedy elements as members of the congregation begin to pull knives and guns. The over-the-top armament dulls the action and isn’t zany enough to suggest the film is pure farce.
Vaughn has transformed the original comic book story into one with enough sharp edges that this could be the next big spy series. To accomplish that task, it will take a little more consistency with the future films. Either embrace the good vs. evil or the high-camp concept. Living in that netherworld between them doesn’t completely hurt the production, but it doesn’t help.
Work out the kinks and other “Kingsman: The Secret Service” tales will have a license to thrill.