Kings­man wins round two

Sunday Star-Times - - ESCAPE -

It is the en­dear­ing cast of Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle who el­e­vate what might other­wise be merely a three­star, medi­ocre, cash­ing-in se­quel to a lu­di­crously pop­u­lar break­out hit.

But since I’m not re­view­ing for my­self, the cliche ‘‘know your au­di­ence’’ rings loud. The first Kings­man movie shot out of the blue to en­ter­tain and tit­il­late au­di­ences, per­form­ing box of­fice magic and ce­ment­ing its cre­ators as forces for Hol­ly­wood to reckon with. Writ­ten by Jane ‘‘Kick-Ass’’ Gold­man and di­rected by Lock, Stock pro­ducer Matthew Vaughn (Direc­tor of Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class), this very Bri­tish film cap­i­talised on the whole world’s love for Colin Firth and a stun­ning de­but by Taron Eger­ton to pro­duce a hugely suc­cess­ful, and of­ten witty, up­date on the James Bond leg­end.

The Golden Cir­cle picks up soon af­ter Eg­gsy, our work­ing-class hero-turned­spiv, left off: now set­tled into happy do­mes­tic­ity with his Swedish princess, he must sud­denly fight for his life when threat­ened by a ghost from the past. And fight he does, in the back of a Lon­don cab be­ing pursued through city streets be­fore ap­ply­ing his boy racer skills and do­ing a Bond to get away. This high-oc­tane mad­ness hap­pens in the open­ing scene, and sets the tone (that is, high-paced and well-or­ches­trated) for the fol­low­ing two hours.

De­spite the cring­ing misog­yny and im­plicit ha­tred of hu­man­ity ex­hib­ited by the first movie, Kings­man‘s con­ceit and high-qual­ity cast de­served much of its ku­dos.

The Golden Cir­cle goes one higher in the cast­ing stakes, with Ju­lianne Moore as the adorably so­cio­pathic drug­man­u­fac­tur­ing bad­die and the wel­come re­turn of Mark Strong’s rich Scot­tish brogue.

Since he has top billing on the poster, I’m al­lowed to spoil Firth’s un­ex­pected re­turn, and as Eg­gsy’s ev­i­dent fa­ther fig­ure, Harry pro­vides the emo­tional heft in the film.

Both Firth and Eger­ton ac­quit them­selves beau­ti­fully in the story’s qui­eter mo­ments (which are few), and keep us en­gaged even through­out the story’s rather long-winded trav­els from Lon­don to Ken­tucky to the Ital­ian alps and into South­east Asia. (It’s not just the mu­si­cal score which con­sis­tently evokes Bond, but the com­pul­sive jour­ney­ing across the globe.)

While Strong pro­vides the film’s best mo­ment, there is plenty of fun to be had with bit-play­ers Chan­ning Ta­tum (who is frozen for half the film but seem­ingly in the wings for the next se­quel) and Bruce Green­wood, ham­ming it up as a dense, mis­an­thropic Pres­i­dent of the United States. The gim­mick of El­ton John play­ing him­self ini­tially feels weak but goes on to pro­vide some of the big­gest laughs. And the Bri­tish-Amer­i­can love is ev­i­dent, with some ten­der Scotch v Bour­bon jibes.

The ac­tion-packed script doesn’t leave much space to get bored (al­though there is more ex­pla­na­tion than strictly needed by your av­er­agely ob­ser­vant viewer) but the run-time is still far too long.

How­ever, the fight scenes – full of fast-slow speed-ramp­ing ef­fects and in­no­va­tive use of weapons – should amuse even those who found the church mas­sacre in the Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice un­nec­es­sar­ily grotesque.

For some­one who was not ul­ti­mately won over by Kings­man‘s charms, this fol­low-up turns out to be less of­fen­sive and more en­ter­tain­ing. – Sarah Watt

Chan­ning Ta­tum and Halle Berry are among the great cast of Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle.

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