The King’s Man

Hollow history

This prequel nobody asked for to the tepid 2014 and 2017 films details the origins of the Kingsman independent intelligence agency during WWI. Prequels, if you don’t know, are what filmmakers do when they run out of ideas.

It takes almost criminal poetic license in its efforts to include every imaginable historical figure of the era, from Rasputin to Mata Hari. It’s way too long, tonally wildly inconsistent, the story is unnecessarily complicated, and it amounts to a fairly humorless, soulless series of cheesy action set pieces featuring screen-saver special effects.

Ralph Fiennes somehow holds this fitfully fun, head-scratching mess together, but only barely, and don’t take that as a recommendation. It’s pretty clear his astounding talents could be put to better use elsewhere.

On the plus side, the mastermind villain, when finally revealed, possesses a name of incomparable beauty. (130 min)