There’s a scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service in which gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and megalomaniac billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) dine in Valentine’s opulent residence. As they chat, Valentine’s assistant wheels in what appears to be a sumptuous meal. The assistant turns over the plate cover, to reveal a row of Big Macs and fries. Director Matthew Vaughn does the same thing to us: he offers what seems to be suave, sophisticated and self–referential take on the spy genre, but it ends up being a forgettable mission best aborted.

Kingsman, adapted from the Mark Millar (Kick–Ass, Wanted) comic book of the same name, tells the story of Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a troubled young teen in the scruffy side of London. After getting into another instance of what the British call “a spot of bother”, Eggsy is recruited by Harry to Kingsman, a high level intelligence outfit that stands above other government spy agencies. Not surprisingly, Eggsy’s father was a Kingsman himself, which explains Harry’s interest in the boy. As Eggsy moves through Kingsman’s training program, the threat of global annihilation arises in the guise of Valentine. 

Since collaborating with Guy Ritchie in the British neo–noir gangster genre, Vaughn’s films have been a mixed bag. His interest in the comic book genre has resulted in strong characterization as seen in X–Men: First Class (2011), and indulgent fanboy excess with Kick–Ass (2010). He channels the latter in Kingsman. For a movie that stands on the strength of its action scenes, it falls flat, with video game–like ultraviolence rendered fluid yet cold. The performances are unsurprisingly solid, with the cast of A–list British actors clamoring for a paycheck, but the characters they portray remain as thinly drawn as their comic book counterparts.

Vaughn embraces elements like umbrella guns and electrifying signet rings, but for all the film's pomp and circumstance, he can’t seem to break out of Kingsman's origin story. Perhaps the inevitable sequel can fix that. While Kingsman pokes fun at the spy genre, the film remains trapped in the comic book one.

Watch the trailer below.