In the Middle East during 1997, there was a top secret mission staged to gather information from a terrorist organisation. The men carrying out this mission were the Kingsman team, a group of British secret agents whose professional excellence made them the best in the business, but alas there was a flaw in their plan when their leader, codenamed Lancelot (Colin Firth), failed to notice the evildoer they had captured had the upper hand and used a grenade to put them in a compromising position. Luckily for most of them, that explosion was muffled by one man's quick thinking; unluckily for him, falling on a grenade tends to kill you. Lancelot was most aggrieved, and set about making amends...
Which brings us up to date in the present, where we meet young Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who is our hero. He is the son of the agent who died, and he is going to have a radical change in his life when Lancelot enters it once more, as Eggsy has grown up in a lower class estate where his prospects have dwindled to almost nothing, leaving little to look forward to as he watches his mother (Samantha Womack) set up home with an abusive partner and the local hoodlums begin to pick on him, leading him to a life of petty crime and minor violence. So how about he shakes that up with the opportunity to commit major violence, this time perfectly legal since he will be operating under the blessing of his country?
Ever since James Bond exploded onto the movie scene, there have been pretenders to his throne, and Kingsman was yet another in a long line, this time a take on it from Scottish comic book writer Mark Millar who at this point was seeing everything he had ever written being optioned to be made into a movie; call him the Stephen King of comics in that respect. This was his approach to the spy genre, make it tacky and tongue in cheek in the manner of the Roger Moore tenure, apart from the bits where we were supposed to take a scene seriously, but the overall gaudiness of the rest of it coloured those parts to give the overriding impression that this was a perfect fusion of all those first person shooter computer games and lurid comics in the ideal movie form, and perhaps it was.
Any depth was relegated to musings over the class system as Lancelot's boss Arthur (as in King... played by Michael Caine) doesn't think Eggsy has what it takes to be a proper Kingsman mostly thanks to him being from the wrong social strata. This was a dig at James Bond's supposed posh quality, conveniently ignoring there's not much posh about Sean Connery, and Daniel Craig has his rough edges too for that matter, but never mind that, director Matthew Vaughn said, just lose yourself in the fantasy of an ordinary bloke, in this case Eggsy, proving himself perfect gentleman material while still staying true to his roots. A neat juggling act if you can manage it, and to Egerton's merit he did come across as comfortable in both worlds of the estate and the multimillion dollar villain's lair.
That was the thing, when works like this owed so much to the Bond template but would have it they were actually something fresh and new, when they were really more of the same, unless you counted an anal sex joke that Bond wouldn't get away with. That and a mass murder sequence where we're not supposed to mind because the victims are a church full of bigots, and it's the bad guy instigating their deaths, said baddie being computing genius Valentine (lisping Samuel L. Jackson, sadly more Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill than Yaphet Kotto in Live and Let Die). His grand scheme was typical of the film's philosophy of expressing yourself through violence, apparently unironically, as he adopted a Halloween III-style mass riot as his weapon of doom, but Vaughn worked his accustomed slickness to keep most objections muted when you recognised it was more superficial than pointed commentary, though his insistence on plugging Rupert Murdoch-owned properties made this of the new establishment, not anti-elitist. Music by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson.