Early on in Matthew Vaughn's wild comic book adaptation of The Secret Service, Agent Gallahad (Colin Firth) compares Eggsy's (Taron Egerton) transition from a street tough to a classy gentleman to several movies, including Pretty Woman and Trading Places. It's one of several winks to the audience that's littered throughout this movie, which hits the gas early and rarely lets up.
Vaughn takes the gleeful violence that made Kick-Ass such a fun flick, to a world of grim comic-book movies and cranks it up to 11. Heads explode. People are sliced right down the middle. Large groups of people beat each other senseless. That could sound like a drag, and the script occasionally lets the nihilistic streak of Mark Millar's comic slip through. But Vaughn has such a great eye for action and a reverence for the gadgetry of 007 that it's always in touch with how silly it all is.
The gist of The Secret Service isn't all that different from the movies Gallahad mentions. What it most closely resembles is Men in Black, with a weary no-nonsense agent molding a wisecracking young gun into a suit-wearing, heat-packing weapon. The cast meshes well with that story, and gives Vaughn an opportunity to extend some of the training sequences we saw in X-Men: First Class, but add in extra danger and F-bombs.
One of the most fun aspects of The Secret Service is Samuel L. Jackson's role. Playing a Steve Jobs-like mogul with Russell Simmons' wardrobe and lisp, he's relishing his time as the flashy antagonist, just as he did in last year's otherwise forgettable RoboCop. While he plots to take over the world with SIM cards, his sidekick Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) does all the dirty work: she slashes up victims with her razor-sharp prosthetic legs. Yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds.
The Secret Service provides everything you'd want in an action movie and then some. You saw the immaculate suits and powerful weapons in the trailer. But did you also want some adorable puppies? Yes, you did. Did you want a Westboro Baptist Church-like cult ripping each other apart while the guitar solo from "Free Bird" plays? Well, you will now. All that craziness makes this Vaughn's best movie to date and easily the best movie of 2015 so far.