Kingsman: The Secret Service

Year: 2015
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Matthew Vaughan
Producer: Matthew Vaughan/Adam Bohling/David Reid
Writer: Matthew Vaughan/Jane Goldman/Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons
Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill

Take a large dose of James Bond, the thematic framework of Austin Powers and a healthy dash of comic book spirit and Kingsman: The Secret Service is exactly the concoction you'll get.

It's not exactly the best tasting recipe available in theatres at the moment – the transitions between flavours aren't very seamless and there's a bit too much going on in both the big picture and the details for it all to feel like a complete meal.

So even though there are plenty of laughs prompted by outrageous bursts of violence, profanity or character tics it's all a lot of sugar and froth without anything terribly nutritious underneath.

Okay, enough food metaphor. But it's quite apt – it's like director Matthew Vaughan and his screenwriter Jane Goldman (seemingly using the Mark Millar comic as their visual as well as narrative cue) have taken ingredients from across pop culture, thrown them all into a saucepan or cocktail shaker, stirred them together almost-enough and chucked the results on the page.

The cadre of Bond-esque international spies of the title wear immaculately tailored suits, know how to fight and aren't beholden to any government, known to each other by Knights of the Round Table codenames. One of them, Galahad (Colin Firth) targets street hood Eggsy (Taron Egerton) when their commander Arthur (Michael Caine) directs them to recruit new talent and whittle them down to the absolute best.

At the same time, the lisping industrialist Valentine (the funniest role Samuel L Jackson's had in years) wants to fight climate change by killing off most of humanity, and is moving his dastardly plan towards its endgame.

One thing you certainly can't accuse Kingsman of is being formulaic. From the specialised weapons of Valentine's fearsome female second in command to the sight of Galahad laying waste to a church full of rednecks in rural Kentucky, it goes in some very off-the-wall directions.

It means that when a major character's shocking death comes at only two thirds of the way through, you're genuinely curious how the story will handle it. If you've seen a Hollywood movie in the past 30 years you'll be waiting to discover the character in question hasn't really died thanks to some plot contrivance, which says something about just how much Kingsman sets out to subvert as well as pay homage to classic spy genre tropes.

Another upside is the decision to stage (and set) the movie in England using British actors. Even though the overblown CGI, ridiculously balletic fight scenes, ribald humour and gouts of blood are distinctly American in spirit, it's filled with characters who haven't been over-Americanised to assure universal appeal. In fact Egerton's cockney patter as Eggsy is so broad and thick at times you can't understand a word he's saying.

Coming from the director of Kick-Ass it was never going to be subtle, the gleeful slo-mo caresses over high-kicks, martial arts-inspired gunplay and severed limbs constantly reminds you you're in comic book territory. Look too deep and it'll deflate like an overdone souffle, but the top is light, spongy and flimsy enough to enjoy while it's going on.

But it does prompt a final question – why is this much stylised blood and gore fun and enjoyable here yet nasty and distasteful in Sabotage, as many critics complained of?

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