KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Suited? Or booted? Our take on Matthew Vaughn’s sharply-attired spy-fi blow-out.
released OUT NOW! 15 | 141 minutes Director Matthew Vaughn Cast Taron egerton, Colin Firth, Mark strong, Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry
Sequels are often touted as bigger and better than the films that preceded them. Budgets are boosted, more famous names can be coaxed into sharing the screen with the established cast, and there’s the temptation to ramp up the set-pieces.
So it is with Matthew Vaughn’s first stab at a follow-up (we’re not counting Kick-Ass 2, as he only produced it), which takes what largely worked (and a lot of what didn’t) about Kingsman: The Secret Service, and subsequently dials everything up to an extraordinary degree.
If you enjoyed the street-tough-turned-spy stylings of Taron Egerton last time round, then the chances are you’ll be happy to see him back as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, here a fully fledged member of elite, bespoke intelligence agency Kingsman. Egerton remains likeable and enthusiastic in the role, even as he’s confronted by a doomsday scenario hatched by Julianne Moore’s nostalgia-loving drugs kingpin. Fortunately, he still has loyal gadget expert and dry-witted Scot Merlin (Mark Strong) by his side, and the two continue to share an easy chemistry.
Then there’s Colin Firth. Vaughn has been teasing for a long time that he will find a way to bring back Harry Hart, seemingly shot dead in the previous film, and while we won’t go into the specifics of how it’s done, suffice to say he’s a welcome return, even if his plotline comes across as less than satisfying.
The wackier portions of the film are more of a mixed bag, though it is fun to see how Elton John is used, and one standout sequence finds Moore’s Poppy dealing with a henchman’s disloyalty in a way that’ll make you think twice about dinner after the film. It’s that willingness to go just one step further than most movies of the genre that help the Kingsman entries stand out a little bit, with Vaughn and co having some cheeky fun with the idea of a ramrod-stiff spy agency battling the weirdest wrong-doers that his imagination can dream up.
Trouble is, everything that was crude, stupid and thoughtless in the first film is also maintained, and similarly amped to such a degree that it’s often off-putting. Though there is an attempt to humanise the interaction between Eggsy and Swedish royal Tilde (Hanna Alström) after the anal sex gag of the original, here she’s largely reduced to the role of loving/nagging girlfriend and damsel in distress. And all of that limited progress is undone by a spectacularly tone-deaf attempt to craft an even more “outrageous” carnal gag, this time around focusing on a need to implant a tracker in an intimate area.
We get it: the Bond films often used sex jokes. But team Kingsman
It dials everything up to an extraordinary degree
– even with the talented Jane Goldman back on co-writing duty – never finds the right way to deploy that kind of humour. It’s like a teenager trying to write a Bond script after poring through old issues of Viz.
Mixed messages also plague the film, which hinges on a plot about Poppy’s plans for her millions of loyal customers, but in the process causes a third-act dilemma that has the script and characters hedging their bets so as to cover both sides, neither of them managing to do so particularly effectively.
And for all the shiny new Hollywood additions to the cast, few have the chance to make much of an impact. Channing Tatum is wasted in a role that has less screen time than two robot dogs, Moore is reduced to a basic villain who has a couple of quirks but little in the way of actual development, and neither Halle Berry nor Jeff Bridges feature much beyond a few script pages.
It does make you wonder quite why most of them bothered to sign on at all beyond what we can only guess was an easy payday. Game
Of Thrones veteran Pedro Pascal is at least offered something of a proper story, makes the most of his whip-cracking ways, and works well with the likes of Egerton and Strong. The Golden Circle might indeed
be bigger than The Secret Service, but it most definitely is not better. Ambition is one thing; excess is another, and this is a case study in having your cake, blowing it up with a grenade and then trying to eat it. Jim Blakey
Eggsy wasn’t sure about the Jumanji crossover.
It was the only way to get through Iron Fist.