• by Wes Singleton

The King's Man -B

Rated R, 131 minutes

The action-packed, brutally entertaining "The King's Man" is a spin-off and prequel in the hit "Kingsman" franchise, which is based on the comic book "The Secret Service" by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. From director and writer Matthew Vaughn, responsible for the first two "Kingsmen" films, this one is much more fast-paced and intense than the others thus far, which were far more humorous in tone.

A man named Orlando Oxford ("Harry Potter's" Ralph Fiennes) along with his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson), and assistants Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou) must race against time to stop history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds in the early 20th Century as they get together to plot a war that could wipe out millions of people and destroy humanity.

Vaughn's prequel "The King's Man" tells the story behind how the spy agency The Kingsmen came to formation, and according to the film, it wasn't an easy ride. Vaughn's slick, enjoyable "The King's Man" is far more intense and serious than the previous two films, which many probably didn't take quite seriously enough, because they seemed so shallow on the surface. This one is a bit deeper, though it goes on too long, with a middle act that explores too many subplots that aren't essential to the narrative.

The auspicious casting of character actor Fiennes, better known to millions as Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" film series actually helps the film; while Fiennes isn't known as an action star, and probably won't be after this either, but he's game and energetic, giving the film some credibility and heft. He's well-supported by Arterton, Hounsou and Dickinson, though Rhys Ifans nearly steals the show in the first act as a tough iteration of Rasputin, and he and Fiennes' fight scene is among the most memorable of many peppered throughout the film.

Vaughn takes too long to reveal the identity of the chief antagonist, which is a mild letdown, though it does feature an over-the-top finale that fits right in with the rest of the film. "The King's Man" is about 15-20 minutes too long thanks to the aforementioned, extended second act, but the action scenes do help make up for it. And if you think this is the end of the series, it isn't, given that Vaughn has at least two more "Kingsmen" films in development. "The King's Man" is fun, escapist entertainment away from the more serious fare this holiday season.