Matthew Vaughn sure does like his comic books. Apart from his promising debut film Layer Cake, he’s made a career out of adapting a pretty varied range of them for the big screen, from Stardust to Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class to his latest. What’s particularly impressive is how he’s done this with a mixture of different tones and themes, thereby demonstrating the breadth and depth of the comic book medium itself to some degree. Even more admirable is how all his films so far have been very good, and that includes Kingsman, which is arguably his best. All these various adaptations have been penned with his writing partner Jane Goldman (they also wrote X-Men: Days of Future Past together before Vaughn jumped ship to do this instead), so the two of them have formed a quite formidable creative partnership.

Kingsman feels like a formation of a different kind – an attempt to do to the James Bond franchise what Kick-Ass did to superheroes. A more cynical, violent and humorous take on an established and recognisable sub-genre. It has all the stylistic flourishes that Vaughn has shown more and more of as he’s grown in confidence, as well as a subversive streak a mile wide. It seems to take all the fun from the various spy thriller movies we’re all familiar with, and replace all the slightly naff stuff with a sly self-awareness that allows itself to mock the very films it’s pilfering from. It manages to simultaneously acknowledge that spy movies are both thoroughly fun and thoroughly stupid, while pushing its cynicism further with more violence than Bond has seen in his whole career. This should make it snide, but it’s just too funny and self-mocking for that – kind of like Scream but with exploding heads and dirty jokes. Which is about as hearty a recommendation as I can muster.

Another fine feather in Matthew Vaughn's comic book cap8
Some further cement for Jane Goldman's reputation as a screenwriter9
A brilliant combination of spy thriller pastiche and spy thriller9
Some of the most violent scenes I think I've ever seen in a film like this8
A permanent sense of humour and sense of fun9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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