Having transitioned with ease from producer to director to helm the underrated Layer Cake, Matthew Vaughn continues to impress with another violent, overtly commercial action flick based on a comic book. Just as with Kick Ass, the source material comes from Mark Millar and regular writing cohort Jane Goldman is once again on board to help pen this entertaining homage to Bond and co.
'Eggsy' (a great Egerton) is an inner city youth with bags of unfulfilled potential. His mother is shacked up with a local wrong-sort and his life is going nowhere fast. When he's arrested for crashing a stolen car, he's bailed out by an old military friend of his father - who he subsequently learns is actually a secret agent working for an elite, inexplicably well-dressed independent agency who strive to take down the world's bad guys (think Archer with a stiffer upper lip). Samuel L. Jackson's internet billionaire is one of those bad guys, and Eggsy must first make it through dangerous basic training before becoming one of the coveted 'Kingsmen', tackling the nerdy, evil-doing bastard and thwarting his very 21st century plans.
It goes without saying that Kingsman owes a debt to numerous other spy films. There is more than one conversation about Bond, Bauer and Bourne, but the script is just far enough on the witty side of self-awareness, and it ultimately feels more like a nod to those characters than a rip-off. Vaughn knows exactly how to shape modern British characters in outlandish situations and he has a blast here, as does an unusually-cast Firth in a physically challenging role. Sure, he has the 'slick' thing down pat - but he's surprisingly effective with the action stuff, be it CGI-aided or not. Young Egerton, meanwhile, has a Jack O'Connell vibe to him and some genuine star quality.
As with the Kick Ass hall shoot-out, there's one particular scene set to seemingly random music that particularly stands out. To delve any further would be veering on spoiler territory, but it's actually properly mental (innit, etc.). Vaughn continues to show a flair for action and his work here is as fluid as ever, while his trademark 'cheeky peek under the hood of the British establishment' is played purely for fun and absolutely works.
The cast are all game ball and the material never takes itself too seriously. This, and a barrage of other elements, makes Kingsman one of the most entertaining action flicks we've seen in a while.