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'Kingsman: The Secret Service' review: Colin Firth gets his 007 on

Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps

Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turn his life around by trying out for a position with Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization. Credit: TNS / 20th Century Fox

"Money for Nothing," the 1985 song by Dire Straits featuring Sting, opens the action comedy "Kingsman: The Secret Service." For some reason, it's blaring from a boombox belonging to two Middle Eastern soldiers, a scene that eventually leads us to a suicide bomber, a weeping widow and a dashing British spy who mixes martial arts with fine scotch.

The less you try to make sense of "Kingsman: The Secret Service," the more you'll enjoy this freewheeling, preposterously violent action comedy from the creators of "Kick-Ass." Based on the comics by Mark Millar and directed by Matthew Vaughn, the movie is a jumble of genres, references and influences. It can't decide whether it's a send-up of James Bond or a bloodier version of "Austin Powers," but it's stylish, energetic and entertaining throughout.

Everything in "Kingsman" is a nod or a wink, including its fine cast. The film's title refers to a ring of gentleman spies who sport bulletproof banker's suits, chunky glasses and lethal umbrellas. Colin Firth is pitch-perfect as noble agent Harry Hart, code name Galahad, and Mark Strong plays Merlin, the ring's tech-savvy figure. Their leader, Arthur, is played by Michael Caine -- an in joke, perhaps, since Caine helped invent the ring's square-cool dress code in 1965's "The Ipcress File."

Driving the plot is Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, a brilliant but thuggish teen (played with laddish spirit by Taron Egerton), whom Harry taps as a new recruit. Coincidentally, a technology mogul named Richmond Valentine is attempting to conquer the world using smartphones. Played by Samuel L. Jackson with an absurd lisp ("I'm tho thorry you had to thee all thith") and decked out in Flavor Flav's wardrobe, Valentine makes for an enjoyably loopy villain.

The violence in "Kingsman" ranges from spectacular (a serio-comic bloodbath in a church) to ridiculous (heads exploding in time to an Elgar march). It's all a giant cartoon that's short on real human emotions and completely uninterested in women (Sophie Cookson plays Roxy, another new agent), but the spiffy visuals and cheeky humor help compensate. Keep an eye on the crackpot Professor Arnold -- it's the first major film role in years for the once and future "Star Wars" icon Mark Hamill.

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