**1/2 (out of five)
There’s a lot of spitfire razzle-dazzle but barely any wit, panache or charm in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman The Secret Service, a huge bloated misfire of a movie that sits like a spew stain on the impeccable jacket of Colin Firth’s body of work. While the bounteous fight sequences have verve and style, the rest of the film does not.
Vaughn has stated that he wanted to make a “love letter” to the spy films and series he loved from the 60s and 70s, including the Flint movies, the films featuring Harry Palmer, The Avengers (the television show), The Man From UNCLE and the Bond films of Connery and Moore. But the film he has delivered feels like none of those. Instead, the most powerful resonance it has is, in tone, style, structure, script, pace and design is Kick-Ass. Vaughn has not made a 70s spy caper, but a Matthew Vaughn film, and easily his worst.
The lack of anything resembling a true laugh line or visual gag is a huge problem, but that wouldn’t matter if there was an underlying, easygoing wit, which there isn’t. Everything just looks like it’s trying way too hard. Firth, as superspy (and super fighter) Harry Hart, is terribly uncomfortable in the role, possibly because he was hoping to have some dry bon mots to deliver that never materialised. He’s stuck having to sip scotch in lieu of being actually suave (and god forbid he gets a chance to be sexy – there’s nothing sexy in the film whatsoever, which is completely the opposite of what’s going on in all the films and shows Vaughn claims to be honouring: they were all about being sexy).
An origin story of how a young man (Taron Egerton, who will at least get a career based off this) is inducted into the titular secret service, the film is neither a parody of its genre nor the claimed “love letter” to it. It’s actually, and ultimately, just a substandard entry to the field, which really bottoms out as it name-checks the others (Bond, Bourne, even Bauer from 24), reminding you that they all do this much, much better.