The last time we saw Colin Firth, he was sleepwalking his way through Before I Go To Sleep— a movie I’m sure he, Nicole Kidman, and Mark Strong would like to expunge from their respective resumes. (Fortunately for them, no one saw it– so it shouldn’t be too hard.)

Now Firth (and Strong, too, for that matter) is back among the living with Kingsman: The Secret Service, a generally fun (if inexplicably profane and violent) James Bond-lite (and -like) romp from the director of Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn.

Firth is Harry Hood (code name ‘Galahad’), a MI6-ish spy in a top secret international agency that vanquishes the world’s super-villains. When Hood’s life is saved (in the prologue) by a fellow agent, he visits the man’s widow and child to offer his services, in the form of a medallion with a phone number engraved on it. It takes seventeen years, but the child (Taron Egerton)  finally calls– just in time for an audition to be a Kingsman himself.

Meanwhile, as luck would have it, super-villain Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has arrived on the scene with a dastardly (though utterly ridiculous) scheme. Inexplicably affecting a distracting lisp, Valentine is a multi-billionaire with a nefarious plan (and sadistic henchwoman to boot), and it’s up to The Kingsmen to stop him.

Based on the graphic novel series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman plays like a somewhat goofy spy thriller, but there’s enough genuine fun along the way (including several tightly choreographed fight sequences) to keep things interesting. But why, oh why, must the f-bomb be dropped more often than beanbags at an Intro to Juggling class? And what’s with the Tarantino-level violence? (Seriously, within the first five minutes a guy gets sliced in half, head-to-toe, by a prosthetic razor leg of the aforementioned henchwoman. And then there’s a bloody massacre near the end with truly horror-schlock-level gore.) With a little judicious editing, Kingsman could have very easily (and, by rights, should have) been a PG-13 romp. Early(ish) teens must be the intended audience, after all; I can’t imagine too many grown(ish) men lining up to see it.

Still, Kingsman is fairly entertaining, and Firth is back in fine form. Glorified cameos from the likes of Michael Caine and Mark Hamill also help add to the appeal. I don’t foresee much of a shelf life for Kingsman, though, (despite talk of it expanding into a full-blown franchise), but in and of itself it works well enough to shake off the winter chill for at least a few hours.

3/5 stars