KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (MA)
Colin Firth is that mix of handsome, debonair and masculine Brit, and I've had occasion to wonder how often his name might have come up in the office of Cubby Broccoli as the casting discussions that saw both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig land the gig as James Bond took place.
In what is obviously the first of a hoped-for franchise – there is a whole line of expensively tailored outfits you can buy as tie-in merchandise – his film imagines not only a universe where Firth was Bond, but also a post-field operative role for the world's favourite oversexed super-spy.
Firth plays Harry Hart, formerly a Bond-type who now works as a recruiter and mentor for young talent. Here we meet the rough diamond Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a street urchin whom Hart takes under his wing and polishes into a workable field agent for Britain's greatest secret agency.
The training comes as a baptism of fire as Hart and Eggsy, along with fellow Kingsmen Arthur (Michael Caine) and Merlin (Mark Strong) – they all have handles from Arthurian legend – find themselves on the frontline of the machinations of evil billionaire tech genius Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his balletic sidekick Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).
Writer-director Matthew Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman once again adapt one of the graphic novels of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons – they previously adapted their Kick-Ass booksand here they bring to life the pair's The Secret Service, something of a My Fair Lady tale with Eggsy as Eliza and Harry Hart as Henry Higgins.
The screenplay is witty and fun and Vaughn, who has gone from strength to strength as a director of popular action films, is at the height of his powers working with his own material.
The film is an open love letter to all things Bond. Jackson makes a great super-villain, and as with his character in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, the writers acknowledge their source material with dialogue between Jackson and Firth. Firth, incidentally, based his performance on David Niven's Bond from the 1967 comedy Casino Royale, and his performance is terrific fun.
The team at film company Marv have never shied away from brutal violence and they don't start here. Their work is breathtaking in great Bond tradition, though some will balk at the violence that goes way beyond gentlemanly fisticuffs.