If you saw the trailers for Kingsman, you probably thought that it looked like a heightened version of James Bond, with stylish rooms full of guns and a slightly off sense of humor. And it sort of is that, but also tonally so, so different. Colin Firth kills a lot of people. A lot.

Kingsman is both a Savile Row tailor and a stateless band of elite spy-assassins with cute Knights of the Round Table nicknames. They’re all English, though, and, until this film starts, posh.* Their brief is…unclear, but appears to involve general world-saving type things. Arthur (Michael Caine) is in charge, and the three agents with whom we most interact are Galahad (Firth), Lancelot (Jack Davenport), and Merlin (Mark Strong). Merlin is basically Q, but mean. They’re trying to find a new agent to replace a dead comrade, so we start out with a bunch of posh kids (particularly Edward Holcroft as Charlie and Sophie Cookson as Roxy), and one streetwise youth, Eggsy (Taron Egerton).

They are pitted against a tycoon with world-domination and/or cleansing ambitions, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a hell of a lisp and a baseball cap in place of his trademark Kangol, but otherwise the same). He has an assistant with blade prosthetics on her legs (Sofia Boutella), and those blades are not euphemistic. Also he has kidnapped Mark Hamill(!).

The acting is better than you’d think, frankly. Both Firth and Strong are glintingly, urbanely intense, in a very pleasing way. Egerton makes the chip on Eggsy’s shoulder both irritating and comprehensible, which is no mean feat. Beyond that, though, there’s not much there. Roxy is unfortunately rather a cipher, but it’s probably something of a step to have a woman in this sort of movie as anything other than ornament, so I guess maybe we shouldn’t be picky. And the clothes and interiors are great.

This is sort of Avengers (Marvel-type) meets James Bond, but it’s less than the sum of its parts. The cartoonish notes–down to its comic book pedigree, presumably–are discordant and sometimes offensively flippant. The violence is all extremely well choreographed, but a lot of people die. It’s not very gory, but perhaps it’s not gory enough. We are constantly told that the stakes are high, but it never really seems that way.

*Maybe not, though, with Michael Caine. Unclear.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: R
Length: 129 minutes
Score: 3/5

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