“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” Movie Review


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     Director Matthew Vaughn, who began his film career producing early Guy Richie efforts such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”, created a sort of over the top cinematic formula of which he found the perfect material to execute with his raunchy take on superhero films, 2010’s “Kick-Ass”.  That film featured an 11 year old, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, whose superhero alter ego, Hit Girl, had a mouth foul enough to send sailors running from a bar.  The vulgar humor and excessive gore mixed well with the every man story of regular guys and girls donning a costume and fighting crime and certainly created characters worth rooting for.  Vaughn clearly found another story to plug into this style with his 2014 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, which was his take on the spy genre, twisted into a purposely comedic blood bath as if it were the love child of James Cameron’s “True Lies” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”.  The film sold well, making a strong showing with both audiences and critics, thus green lighting the inevitable sequel.

     Vaughn wasn't behind the camera for 2013’s “Kick-Ass 2”, but did serve as one of the film’s producers and in analyzing that sequel with his new film, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”, we can see obvious traits both share that are also common amongst sequels of this kind.  “Kick-Ass 2” was terrible because it felt the need to be unnecessarily excessive, and that’s saying something since the first entry was scarily excessive itself.  But “Kick-Ass” became a sort of novelty if you will, much the same way “Kingsman: The Secret Service” did.  In watching both, the audience felt as though they were seeing a fresh take on the age old super hero and spy genres, even though it was really Vaughn being more daring than most studios would actually allow for a mainstream film.  “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a significantly better film than “Kick-Ass 2”, but the novelty has also worn off, leaving the film’s merits to a story which falls woefully short of the first film.

     Returning in the lead role is Taron Egerton as Eggsy, the one time poor kid from England turned super spy thanks to the tutelage and mentorship of Agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) of the underground British spy network, The Kingsman.  For the second time around, Vaughn has surrounded his lead with a number of notable American actors, including Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and Pedro Pascal, to presumable up the star wattage and contribute to the sequel’s “bigger and better” mentality.  But with all of those actors looking to chew up the scenery, there simply isn't room for all of them to make the desired impact, reducing several to glorified cameos not worth their talents.

     In this installment, Charlie (Edward Holcroft), whom you may remember as one of the notable trainees who flunked Kingsman training in the first film, returns as a henchman on the prowl for revenge against the Kingsman and is looking to wipe them out for good.  A physics defying opening sequence pits Charlie against Eggsy in a car chase action set piece that not only sets the tone for the entire film, but also establishes the retrieval of key information that allows Charlie’s boss to finish the job.  A good villain is essential to this type of film and as Poppy, Julianne Moore certainly had a tough act to follow after Samuel Jackson’s performance as the lisping madman Valentine in the first film.  

     Poppy lives in a remote South American jungle in a lair she refers to as Poppyland, a small town erected in memory of 1970s and 80s nostalgia she grew up on that resembles something you might see in a theme park land (I was reminded of the Simpsons land at Universal Studios.).  She has everything from a slick looking diner, to a vintage donut shop, all guarded by two robot dogs whose single red eyes move from left to right horizontally like the Cylons from “Battlestar Galactica”.  Poppy also was smart enough to kidnap her favorite celebrity singer of the time, Elton John playing himself, and has built a massive personal stage theater for him to perform in at her whim.  John is hilarious by the way, with most of his dialogue being limited to the recurrent use of the F word between musical numbers in which his costumes get more colorful as the film goes on.

     Poppy is also the worlds largest drug dealer and has hatched a plan of world domination.  It’s up to Eggsy, Harry (He survived the head shot he incurred in the first film and it’s explained in quite a nifty way.), Merlin (Mark Strong), and the new characters from the American cousins of the Kingsman, known as the Statesman, to stop her.  The action is similar to what we saw in the first film and in some ways attempts to surpass the over the top silliness with an array of new weapons including the electric lasso deployed by Pedro Pascal’s Whiskey, but nothing is as memorable as Valentine’s razor footed Gazelle from the first installment, nor is anything really surprising.  Instead, Vaughn goes the route of vulgar overcompensation in the form of humans being dropped into meat grinders and turned into hamburgers for consumption, as well as one agent being tasked with inserting a tracker into an unsuspecting woman’s vagina.  Both scenes push the visual aspect to its very worst and would’ve been much better left to the imagination or on the cutting room floor.

     The entertainment factor here is undeniable however, and Vaughn certainly has mastered the craft it takes to pull off such spectacle and still tell a cohesive story.  Because our heroes don't actually meet Poppy until the very end, we don't get those early face to face interactions between her and Eggsy or Harry like we did with Harry and Valentine in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”.  The kind of interactions that are able to slowly build tension between characters that ultimately make the ending much more satisfying.  Imagine if Pacino’s Vincent Hanna and DeNiro’s Neil McCauley hadn’t had their face to face in the coffee shop in “Heat”, only to face off for the first time at the end.  Wouldn’t have had the same impact, and that’s essentially what we get here.  We already know what will happen at the end because there’s no established relationship between the good characters and the evil one, which ultimately gives “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” that been there done that kind of feel.  GRADE: C+