Matthew Vaughn's "Kingsman: The Secret Service" is proof that anything, even hyper-violence, goes down smoother with a tailored suit and a British accent.
Based on the comic book "The Secret Service," "Kingsman" is an irreverent blast that wears its R-rating like a badge of honor. Cuss words fly off the screen, the body count is sky high, and one sequence may set the world record for exploding heads on screen. But somehow it's all very polite and British; it's a punch to the face washed down with a spot of tea.
The film follows an independent international intelligence agency that doesn't sacrifice good manners while saving the world.
"We are, first and foremost, gentleman," Kingsman Harry Hart tells a young recruit, and since Hart is played by Colin Firth — who indeed makes quite the dashing action hero — there's no trouble believing him.
That young recruit is Eggsy, whose father was being groomed for Kingsman duty when he was killed during training. Played by the magnetic Taron Egerton, Eggsy is slightly rough around the edges, but a born leader.
While Eggsy works his way through the Kingsman recruitment process, Hart and crew are dealing with Richmond Valentine, a billionaire hatching a scheme for world domination. Samuel L. Jackson, who, with his prominent lisp and askew New York Yankees cap, is clearly channeling hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, is a gas as the super villain who wants to wipe out the planet, but just can't stand the sight of blood.
In his previous films, "Layer Cake," "Kick-Ass" and "X-Men: First Class," Vaughn showed his flare for style, kinetic action and big-budget extravaganzas. Here he combines all three and puts a meta, post-modern spin on the spy genre, like a flip, fun James Bond for the millennial set.
"This isn't that kind of movie," characters say at two different points in the film, one of the ways Vaughn winks at the audience. They're empty words if they they're not followed through, but the sequel-ready "Kingsman" has a few good tricks up its designer sleeve. Good show, lads.
'Kingsman: The Secret Service'
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
Running time: 129 minutes