YOU CAN TELL a lot about someone by which James Bond is his or her favorite. Judging from Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn's favorite is Roger Moore. Moore's Bond films were glamorous, extravagant trash, and Kingsman is both a love letter to that goofy camp and a mild critique of the dour, serious Bond we've got now (the one, coincidentally, played by Vaughn's old Layer Cake cohort, Daniel Craig). Based on a comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman is smashingly fun, finding common ground between today's comic-book action flicks and classic British espionage thrillers. That it succeeds so well is kind of startling.
The Kingsmen are a secret secret service, eons more secret than stuffy ol' MI6. It's suggested that Kingsman agents are modern-day equivalents to knights of old, a parallel that's drawn right down to their code names: Arthur (Michael Caine), Galahad (Colin Firth), Merlin (a terrific Mark Strong). The team's Lancelot has just been sliced in half by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), a lady whose prosthetic running blades are actual blades. She's working for Richmond Valentine, a tech wizard/philanthropist/aspiring supervillain who can't stand the sight of blood. He's played by Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp.
So the Kingsmen have to find a new Lancelot, and among the new recruits is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a scrappy young hooligan who's quickly at odds with the upper-class twerps he's enlisted alongside. We see all the requisite training challenges—the best of which is that each Kingsman pupil must take care of an adorable puppy—but soon we're off on a rip-roaring adventure with nothing less than the entire world at stake. Of course.
From the ludicrous amount of action to Mark Hamill's cameo as a tweedy Brit, there's tons to love in Kingsman. This is a film in which our hero isn't ready for battle until he's wearing an impeccably tailored bespoke Savile Row suit, a film where every wall is a secret panel that rolls away to reveal a cache of deadly weapons. In other words, it's a blast.