IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 141 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Eggsy is now a fully fledged Kingsman and when he’s not on missions he’s in Sweden with his girlfriend Princess Tilda. However, he’s first attacked by former Kingsman Charlie who he’d previously saved, then narrowly survives a devastating attack on all the Kingsmen which kills most of its members. The person behind it seems to be Poppy, a drug dealer in Cambodia who’s started to put something in her merchandise which infect users with a fatal disease. Eggsy and Merlin venture off to the States to see if the Kingmen’s American counterparts can help….
At the end of my review for 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service which I found to be easily the most entertaining of that years big action-orientated blockbusters after Mad Max: Fury Road, I wrote: “Let’s hope though that this time the movie isn’t tarnished by a mediocre sequel made principally by other hands”. I was referring to, of course, writer/director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman’s Kick-Ass which did lead to a very poor sequel made by others. And fortunately their own sequel to their spy thriller doesn’t tarnish it, though it is slightly inferior, even if you accept that being a sequel it’s not going to have the first film’s freshness, and perhaps it doesn’t contain anything as memorable as its bonkers exploding head finale or that church scene. At 141 minutes it really is too long and could have done with some cutting around the mid-section which is rather too heavy on exposition. And once again we have a film like this which relies far too heavily on CGI during its action scenes, though this is depressingly par for the course nowadays so there’s not much point criticising Kingsman: The Golden Circle too much for doing what virtually every other film of its ilk also does, especially when the result still showcases its director’s quirkiness and imagination frequently.
In true James Bond style it opens with an action set piece, a car chase around London incorporting fighting inside a car [okay, it’s hardly The Raid 2 quality but still quite impressive for a western production considering the cramped space] and Eggsy riding on a detached car door while Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy plays on the soundtrack and the action seems perfectly edited to the music. After escaping when his car shows itself to be submersible The Spy Who Loved Me-style, Eggsy is next seen all nervous because he’s having dinner with his girlfriend Princess Tilde’s [yes, the one from the end of the first film] parents but has had to make his way through some sewers. However, somebody tries to kill all the Kingsmen and Egssy has to go back into action again, though this requires that he team up with his American counterparts who of course are more freewheeling than the straight laced Brits. There’s Tequila who virtually disappears after his introduction which will probabl disappoint Tatum Channing fans but which seemed to me just another way the film subverts expectations, Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale the computer technician for the organization, Pedro Pascall’s Whiskey a cowboy with an electric lasso, and finally their leader Champagne, Jeff Bridges perhaps a little wasted in the role. Oh, and yes, there’s Harry Hart, still alive [no secret since the trailer revealed this, though perhaps it shouldn’t have] but now suffering from amnesia and studying butterflies [I’m guessing that this is intended as one of the more obscure Bond references].
Firstly Eggsy has to go to Glastonbury festival and plant something inside a woman’s vagina [I’m not going to go into details as to why]. Just before he’s about to “do it” with her, he rings his girlfriend and tells her what he’s about to do and that he has to do it as it’s part of his job. She’s against it but mistakenly thinks he also proposed to her and is even more upset when she realises he hadn’t. He manages to do what he has to do, and the camera goes all the way “inside” but he can’t go through with actually having sex with the woman and leaves – though it’s too late as Tilde just isn’t talking to him anymore. Now I’m sure many critics [despite probably being the same critics who praise Paul Feig films] will find this distasteful and even sexist, and it is very crude, but it’s also possible to take it as one of the best examples of the way this film plays with and provides twists on familiar situations [can you imagine James Bond ringing one of his other women during such a situation?], and the way it adds amongst all the silliness touches of down to earth relatability.
Though some may feel that some of his scenes slow the movie down a bit too much, Colin Firth provides some really poignant moments and is given more of a chance to stretch his acting chops though be warned there’s a hell of a lot of time before he goes into action again. In fact he film really does dawdles quite a bit in its midsection with some unnecessarily convoluted storytelling which really wasn’t necessary considering the basic simplicity of the plot which would have been able to manage its later twists. The losing of fifteen minutes or so would have benefitted proceedings quite a bit. However the final third does have all the sustained action you could want including a thrilling bit with an out of control cable car which ends on perhaps the biggest laugh of the film. Of course it would be even more thrilling with action stunt work as opposed to CGI, and – sad to say – some of said CGI doesn’t look overly impressive. Still, there are many times in this film when the mixture of humour and thrills is as well balanced and executed as many of the best Bond films. The fight scenes were a bit ‘shakycam’ for my liking though are often done with extremely lengthy takes which is admirable – but how much more pleasurable they would have been to watch had the camera not been ducking and diving all the time? For a start you’d have been able to see everything that went on.
Sometimes too much is thrown in. The addition of Elton John in quite a major role actually comes off really well [and this is coming from somebody who doesn’t really like him at all] and provides some more chuckles even if the Rocket Man clearly still can’t act. On the other hand Poppy’s robot dogs are just too Transformers, even in a film that piles on the gadgets like this one and it really is full of cool stuff. And there are rather too many scenes of the good guys walking in slow motion into the frame. Poppy is a wonderful caricature of an archetypal ’50’s housewife. who runs her empire [our introduction to it, the camera swooping into it, is one of several glorious and lengthy aerial shots] from a ’50’s themed diner amidst some ancient ruins. Julianne Moore is clearly having so much fun in the role and her cheery manner remains very funny even when feeding useless minions into mincers and forcing a new recruit to the course to eat a burger made of – well, you know what. There’s an interesting discussion of drugs going on in this film. As this is a new release I’m not going to go into detail about Poppy’s plot, but I’m sure that many writers will see it as an anti-drugs statement and maybe that is what Vaughn and Goldman intended. However, it seemed to me to be a bit more complicated than that- take for example the number of sympathetic characters who indulge and who are therefore marked for death. What the script seems to be doing is offering arguments on both sides and, while it clearly leans in favour of one particular viewpoint, it also seems to realise that it’s not as easy as all that, and it’s still quite brave that a film like this is raising issues that the powers that be should talk about but tend not to want to talk about, and who dismiss any suggestions that perhaps the war on drugs isn’t actually working.
Taron Egerton is again a rather charming hero though, like Jeff Bridges, Michael Gambon is pretty much wasted in his role as the new Arthurs and it’s a great shame that Sophia Cookson’s Roxy now reduced from being a major and likeable supporting character in the first movie to one that’s little more than a cameo. In many ways Kingsman: The Golden Circle has some of the same flaws that the Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels have [i.e. bloatedness, uneven pacing, awkward storytelling] and yet much like those films there are sections when it’s so ridiculously fun that it’s possible to forgive said flaws for the most part. When Kingsman: The Golden Circle soars, it really soars. While I’m sure that it won’t quite be the mega-hit that I’m sure – for example – the next Thor movie undoubtedly will be, it still has a vibrancy, a joyful cheekiness, and a level of invention that we haven’t had in other comic book-derived adventures for some time. And it’s also far more consistently funny than the average movie comedy you get these days.