Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Laced with brutal set-pieces, Matthew Vaughn's action-comedy is tailor-made to impress on Blu-ray

When a young agent is killed in action, his superior Harry Hart (Colin Firth) visits his widow and young son to offer his condolences and give them a number to call if they ever need a favour. Years later, the boy, now a young man called Eggsy (Taron Egerton) does just that after he's arrested by the police following a spot of joy riding. Freeing him from jail, Harry takes Eggsy under his wing and offers him a chance to live up to his potential by competing for a vacant position in a top-secret team of super spies: the Kingsmen.

Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has been growing increasingly concerned about the state of the world. To this end, he's been kidnapping global leaders and cooking up a nefarious plot involving a new SIM card that he plans on giving away for free…

That's the premise of this British-produced flick based on the comic book written by Mark (Kick-Ass) Miller and illustrated by Dave (Watchmen) Gibbons. It's directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also helmed the film adaptation of Kick-Ass.

'[Spy films today] are a little too serious for my tastes,' reveals Hart at one point. 'But the old ones… Marvellous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day'. It's a credo that Vaughn and everybody else involved in the making of Kingsman: The Secret Service obviously stuck to as well. This is a big, silly, ebullient love letter to the spy genre featuring all of the tropes you'd hope for, from guns and gadgets to double-crosses and a menacing hench-woman with blades for feet. Even Harry Palmer himself, Michael Caine, is on hand playing Colin Firth's secret agent boss.

But amongst all of the nods and winks to other spy films, Kingsman: The Secret Service layers on a ridiculous amount of violence and gore. It never shies away from showing a limb being severed or a head exploding. Cartoonish in its execution, it's an Eggsy-style poke in the eye to the stiff-upper-lip approach to filmmaking that typified the 'gentlemen spy' genre during its heyday. It's just a shame that the filmmakers didn't quite know when and where to pull their punches, ending the film with a riff on the old Bond codas that goes that one step too far and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

But that's a minor complaint. For the most part Kingsman: The Secret Service is a refreshing subversion of the genre that delivers exuberant action scenes alongside laugh-out-loud gags, plus a handful of twists that (for a change) aren't signposted and will definitely take most viewers by surprise.

Roll on the inevitable sequel…

Picture: Kingsman: The Secret Service delivers plenty of visual thrills with its striking AVC-encoded 2.40:1 Full HD imagery. Depth, dimensionality and textual nuance clearly benefit from the crisp delineation of the Blu-ray encode and the amount of intricately resolved detailing visible in every shot (the sole downside to this visual acuity being the way that it draws attention to some of the film's rather less impressive CG effects).

The film's comic book-style aesthetic is packed with bold primary colours that serve to give the imagery an eye-popping vibrancy, while contrast and brightness look absolutely spot-on. Likewise, black levels are supremely well handled, appearing deep and rich, while still boasting plenty of shadow detail.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: While it may be a step-down from the Dolby Atmos mix that accompanied Kingsman: The Secret Service in cinemas, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack included on this BD provides a dynamic and immersive aural experience.

The expansive soundfield that has been created bristles with directional effects, while the low-end is deep enough to satisfy the most demanding bass-hedz. Particularly impressive is the clarity of the mix; no matter how chaotic things get (such as the church fight in Chapter 26), sonic detailing remains precise at all times.

On top of this, music and dialogue are both flawlessly rendered, with the former used to add yet more energy to the mix, while the latter is prioritised to lift it out of the acoustic maelstrom.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: In lieu of an audio commentary, the most substantial bonus feature on offer is Kingsman: The Secret Service Revealed. Split into six sections (Panel to Screen: The Education of a 21st Century Spy; Heroes and Rogues; Style All His Own; Tools of the Trade; Breathtakingly Brutal; and Culture Clash: The Comic Book Origins of the Secret Service) this 92-minute doc talks to most of the main cast and crew, and covers pretty much everything you could want to know about the making of the film – from the original comic book to costumes, casting to stunts.

Next up comes a trio of photo galleries: Behind the Scenes (51 images); Sets (24 images); and Props (39 images). As with all Fox discs, these can be flicked through manually or set to roll automatically. Finishing things off is the film's trailer.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Excellent AV performance and a superb in-depth doc gives this film a licence to thrill on Blu-ray

Kingsman: The Secret Service, Twentieth Century Fox, Region B BD, £25 Approx