Kingsman: The Secret Service

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(2015) ★½

Sky Movies Premiere: PREMIERE Friday 1 January, 4.00pm and 8.00pm

Lock/Stock and Snatch producer Matthew Vaughan first donned a director’s cap in 2004 for Layer Cake, a snappy London crime thriller starring Daniel Craig in his versatile pre-Bond phase alongside veteran scene-stealer Michael Gambon. Matching Snatch for style and guile, it was better than everything else Guy Ritchie ever made. It certainly makes Rocknrolla look pretty stupid. But since that promising debut at the helm, Vaughn’s regressed into video gameboy mode. Firstly with the feeble fairy tale Stardust, which displayed worrying lapses in taste and judgment.

Then by losing control of his joystick completely with Kick-Ass, a playground caper pandering to adolescent base instincts. He merely produced the sequel (no improvement but at least that one had Jim Carrey’s manic energy). Having worked on the last two over-complicated X-Men fantasies, Vaughn’s turned his attention to spy spoofery with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Or Johnny English with Anglo-Saxon dialogue and graphic violence. (Bound to be. It’s based on another ‘subversive’ comic book by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar.

Who’s also responsible for the egregious Wanted comics. We shouldn’t forget that.) Colin Firth is the secret service agency’s Savile Row bespokesman, an upper class wallah with a John Steed brolly: “A suit is a modern gentleman’s armour. Kingsmen are the new knights.” With a taste for decanted liquor and just-so Martinis. Spooks-y! His codename’s Galahad. Spamalot! And he’s ‘squiring’ Taron Egerton into service, even if the boy’s a Millwall ’erbert with a chip on his shoulder innit. Kingsman boss Michael Caine wants bluebloods, not blue shirts.

The music burbles away Bondlessly as the plot struggles to get out of low-gear Get Smart gimmickry. The dialogue, on the other hand, is prime guttersnipe. This is Austin Powers with his pants down. And Dr Evil’s dispensable henchmen were funnier than this bunch of thugs. The villain is Samuel L. Jackson, affecting a lisp to underline his sensitivity. That’s the measure of the script’s wit, and the hilarity hits new heights with Jackson’s main hench-person Soufia Boutella, a fatal femme Friday with decapitation-ready blade-legs, à la Oscar Pistorious. The violence, bloody throughout, really goes for the gut in a ludicrous Kentucky church massacre.

Colin Firth as Oldboy? Don’t think so, old man. Vaughan puts all this together with the meaningless panache of Danny Boyle on show-off 127 Hours form. By the way, it’s stuffed with silly 3D-style FX, just to make everything extra witty. Mark Strong attempts a Scottish accent. That’s quite funny. Curiously, Mark Hamill’s English accent is spot on. Vaughn’s already threatening a sequel even though Melissa McCarthy’s Spy, with a genuinely funny turn by Jason Statham, shows up Kingsman’s hollow pretensions. ‘Manners make man’, we’re told more than once, although the love of a ruck betrays a Buster Bloodvessel sensibility rather than any notions of Noël Coward-ice. There’s more nuance in the Despicable Me cartoons.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 128min

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Other Showings Date & Time
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 2 January at 12:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 2 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 3 January at 4:10PM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 3 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 4 January at 4:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 4 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 5 January at 4:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 5 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 6 January at 4:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 6 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 7 January at 4:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 7 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Action/Adventure Saturday, 9 January at 11:00AM
Sky Movies Action/Adventure Saturday, 9 January at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Action/Adventure Wednesday, 13 January at 11:00AM
Sky Movies Action/Adventure Wednesday, 13 January at 8:00PM