KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Elton John, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft
Kingsman: The Secret Service felt like fresh take on the spy genre. It’s release in 2014 was a surprisingly big success, so naturally a sequel was greenlit. The death of his former mentor Harry (Firth) has been a huge blow for Eggsy (Egerton). He’s trying to work his way up as a member of the Kingsman secret spy organization only to be faced with another huge setback for the organization. This time it’s at the hands of a baker named Poppy (Moore). She sounds innocent but runs an undercover drug cartel in the middle of the jungle. Her compound is masked as a bakery, salon, a movie theater, and a variety of other storefronts. There’s a bit of a Sweeney Todd feel to her character as we see early on when she uses a meat grinder on one of her henchmen to turn him into a hamburger. One of her surviving henchmen just happens to be Charlie, a rejected Kingsman looking to get revenge on the organization. Poppy’s first big move involves blowing up every Kingsman agency in England including the homes of its various agents. Eggsy and fellow agent Merlin (Strong) are the only surviving members.
With this devastating blow to their lives and career, they decide to drown their sorrows in a bottle of whiskey only to find a clue taking them to a Kentucky bourbon distillery. Like any good spy film, this distillery is actually the location of the U.S. agency known as The Statesman. Heading up the Statesman is Champagne “Champ” (Bridges). Their codenames come from liquors with Tequila (Tatum), Ginger (Berry), and Whiskey (Pascal) working under Champ. Poppy’s reign continues as she starts lacing her drugs with a virus causing her victims a blue rash among other symptoms. The Kingsman team up with the Statesman in order to track her down and stop the virus from reaching the masses.
Much like the first movie, the sequel takes a very meta approach with its references to James Bond movies. We see the knife shoe once worn by Bond villain Rosa Klebb, and Eggsy’s dog is named J.B. There are other playful nods when it comes to the Statesman and their cowboy look. Games of Thrones star Pedro Pascal dons his best Burt Reynolds as Whiskey. It’s easiest to think of this series as a tricked out Bond movie with as much CGI as possible with the likes of robotic dogs, bionic arms, and stylized action effects akin to The Matrix. I don’t remember the first one being as gimmicky as this one felt. It’s as if any shot as realism was blown out the window. That is probably due to it following standard sequel protocol where it’s louder, more explosive, and adds a new slate of characters to this universe.
This very approach is where writer and director Matthew Vaughn gets arrogant. He shares writing credits with Jane Goldman. It’s as if he forgot how to have an editing eye or know that timing is key. Spy movies can get bogged down, and boy does Vaughn let that happen here. It’s almost too big and expansive for its own good. There are quite a few gags that are dragged out longer than needed or are completely unnecessary. Take for instance Colin Firth’s character. You may recall that he died at the end of the first one. Gotcha! Vaughn brings him back in a goofy way involving Halle Berry’s character. I hold no ill feelings toward Firth and his work in this series, but this film easily could have worked without bringing his character back to life. It’s a whole subplot that could have been left for the cutting room floor, and it would have saved a substantial bit of the film’s exhausting 2 hour and 20 minute runtime. You’ll also find yourself rolling your eyes at a scene involving Eggsy having to plant a tracking device on a femme fatale. It’s purely there for gratuitous reasons.
As the lead role of Eggsy, Taron Egerton is charming and energetic. He’s clearly a star on the rise and should do well in roles outside of Eggsy. The film boasts five Oscar winners in supporting parts with Firth, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Elton John popping up throughout. Yes, that Elton John who plays himself and is willing to poke fun of his diva-like demeanor along the way. His performance works quite well despite the rest of the movie. Moore is the film’s token villain and succeeds at living up to what you’d expect from a character named Poppy. There’s a soft and sweet quality to her tone when she needs it without completely chewing the scenery like a standard spy villain. The rest of the cast seems to be there more for the fun of the genre than the lack of fun in their generic characters.
I wanted to like Kingsman: The Golden Circle more than I did. I loved the first film despite its flaws and was amped up when the sequel was announced. It has that dry, British sense of humor but with an R-rated approach to the genre. There was so much wasted potential here that could be saved if there happens to be a third movie. There’s no shortage of stories in the spy genre. Vaughn either needs to rein it in quite a bit as some of the language and violence could turn off moviegoers or realize that substance and style work better than merely shocking the audience.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you were a fan of the first, and even then, you may be disappointed.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS