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'Kingsman' is no James Bond

Published March 11. 2015 04:00PM

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" is as convoluted as its title.

The movie has a good premise: a young London street punk recruited for a spy agency loosely modeled after The Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6) is groomed in the art of espionage and of being a gentleman.

It's to the "Kingsman" filmmakers' misfortune that they can't decide which storyline is more important: learning to be a spy or learning to become a gentleman.

Had they read and watched their James Bond more dutifully, they would've realized the two are of equal importance, indistinguishable and not mutually exclusive.

"Kingsman" has interesting characters, highly stylized scenes and several big action scenes.

The movie is irreverent in its similarity to and its sendup of the James Bond spy agent and movies. "This ain't that kind of movie," it's stated. Would that it were more so.

Harry Hart, aka Galahad (Colin Firth), is a seasoned member of the singularly titled Kingsman, an elite group of British spies trained in all manner of spycraft, martial arts and weaponry.

Gary, aka Eggsy (Taron Egerton), is a smart and resourceful young man who, after he runs afoul of the law, is recruited along with several others for rigorous training and possible qualification as a Kingsman.

Kingsman is headed by Arthur (Michael Caine). Harry is assisted by Merlin (Mark Strong).

Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is a multibillionaire bad guy who's figured out a way to induce mass terror. He's assisted by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).

"Kingsman" is long on quips, gadgets and spectacular scenes (any and all Kingsmsn training sequences) and short on in-depth dialogue and character development. Plus, it's handicapped by the disappearance of one of its major assets. We won't be more precise as that would ruin your experience of the movie should you choose to see it.

The disappearance of that major asset took the air right out of the movie. I realized afterward that that plot turn was what made the movie go off the rails. Up to that point, I was along for the ride. After that, I was on the platform, counting the minutes and waiting for the next ride, er, movie.

"Kingsman," based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar ("Kick-Ass" graphic novel) Dave Gibbons ("Watchmen" graphic novel), is directed by Matthew Vaughn ("X-Men; First Class," 2011; "Kick Ass," 2010) from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jane Goldman ("X-Men").

Firth is one of the movie's major assets and is grimacingly confident in his role. He cuts a James Bond-like figure with cool grace.

Caine is also a plus as the grandfatherly head of the Kingsmen. Caine can always be depended on to make even a minor role major.

Jackson is a hoot in his over-the-top portrayal of the villainous Valentine. Jackson defines swagger. His moves are way beyond Jagger.

Egerton ("Testament Of Youth," 2014) has a memorable presence, not unlike a young Leonardo DiCaprio. His flintlike features reflect a determined malice that he transitions well as he matures into a Kingsman.

Boutella ("Street Dance 2," 2012) is a striking presence. Strong ("The Imitation Game," 2014) again doesn't disappoint. Mark Hamill is almost unrecognizable as a bumbling professor. Sophie Cookson, in her big-screen debut, impresses as Roxy, a Kingsman recruit.

The contrast between presumed stiff-upper lip upper-crust London and street urchin London is undeniably a powerful draw. Think a male mentor version of "My Fair Lady" (1964), which the screenplay references.

"Kingsman" melds James Bond (down to the electric guitar tremolo chord on the soundtrack and the title, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," 1969) with "The Hunger Games" (2012), a young adult version of "Spy Kids" (2001) and TV's "The Apprentice" (2004-present).

"You can go home," a rejected Kingsman is dismissed.

Call it "Harry Potter And Her Majesty's Secret Service."

The premise is good. The setup is good. The follow-through is not.

Perhaps "Kingsman" is too much of a good thing: too many references and not enough originality.

"Kingsman: The Secret Service," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content; Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime; Run Time: 2 hrs., 9 mins.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Don't pull an Elvis. If you leave the theater building right away, you will miss an extra scene following the start of the closing credits in "Kingsman: The Secret Service."

Box Office, March 6: "Chappie," the science-fiction film about a robot with artificial intelligence, was smart enough to open at No. 1, but with a low $13.3 million, putting "Focus" out of No. 1, to No. 2, with $10 million, $34.5 million, two weeks, and keeping "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" opening at No. 3, with $10 million;

4. "Kingsman: The Secret Service," $8.3 million, $98 million, four weeks; 5. "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water," $7 million, $148.9 million, five weeks; 6. "Fifty Shades Of Grey," $5.6 million, $156.4 million, four weeks; 7. "McFarland, USA," $5.3 million, $29.4 million, three weeks; 8. "The Lazarus Effect," $5.1 million, $17.4 million, two weeks; 9. "The DUFF," $4.8 million, $26.1 million, three weeks; 10. "Unfinished Business," $4.8 million, opening

Unreel, March 13:

"Cinderella," PG: Kenneth Branagh directs Lily James, Hayley Atwell and Helena Bonham Carter in the live-action version of the Disney classic version of the fairy tale.

"Run All Night," R: This month's family victim in peril thriller starring Liam Neeson has to do with an aging hitman who takes on his former boss to protect his family. Genesis Rodriguez, Joel Kinaman and Vincent D'Onofrio co-star.

"It Follows," R: A 19-year-old girl is plagued by the sense that she's being followed. Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe star in the horror film.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press website, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times News website, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6-6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, wdiy.org, where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline. com. Follow Paul Willistein on Twitter @Paul Willistein and friend Paul Willistein on Facebook.

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