Kingsman: The Secret Service
British director Matthew Vaughn’s terrifically entertaining films (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) contained equal measures of scabrous wit and bloody wonder. His latest movie, written with frequent collaborator Jane Goldman, is the stealth social satire Kingsman: The Secret Service, which is based on a comic book that I’m not familiar with but I didn’t feel at as much of a disadvantage watching this film as I did when viewing Watchmen (2009), for example. Vaughn borrows with seemingly mocking glee from the secret agent playbook as he tells the story of a league of gentlemen avengers with code names borrowed from Arthur’s Round Table, whose bond is to protect mankind. Vaughn scored major Hollywood wattage in casting Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson in this farce, and they seem to be having a grand time. Firth and Caine play members of the Kingsmen, which is trying to stop a lisping, diabolical billionaire tech capitalist, that would be Jackson, from ridding the planet of worrisome humanity who are stinking up the place. All but a handpicked handful will be spared. Firth, code name Galahad, recruits a young London tough (Taron Egerton), the son of a slain Kingsman, for the team, and the movie is also about Eggsy’s training under the inscrutable Merlin (Mark Strong). Like Vaughn’s earlier films, Kingsman contains brilliant balletic close-contact battles — many featuring Sophia Boutella as Gazelle, a killer amputee who walks on knives — that are worth the price of admission. But a long scene of unbridled carnage featuring Firth and set in a Kentucky backwoods hate-mongering church has to be witnessed to be believed. Highly recommended but not for the squeamish.