The first Kingsman film was a very loose adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book tribute to spy franchises, and introduced the world to the world of Kingsman – a super-secret spy organisation operating out of a Saville Row clothes store. The film told of the recruitment of a new agent (Taron Edgerton’s ‘Eggsy’) and training by Galahad (Colin Firth), before being pitted against Samuel L Jackson’s sinister tech developer. The film fired on all cylinders, and provided a loving parody of the Bond franchise, albeit a tad bloodier. You can read the review of that first film at http://blog.filmfile.co.uk/2015/01/30/review-kingsman-the-secret-service/
The film was a success, so now we get to enjoy a sequel. Well, I say ‘enjoy, but, unfortunately, I mean ‘endure’. You see, Kingsman: The Golden Circle simply isn’t that good.
This time around, Eggsy has been an active agent for a year now, balancing his spy life with his personal life as best he can. He is dating Princess Tilde, and still hanging around with his friends on the old estate, when he suddenly finds himself pitted against a new evil mastermind, the deranged drug lord Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) when the Kingsman organisation are all wiped out. With only himself and Merlin (Marc Strong) remaining, they seek out help from Statesman, their American counterparts. At the same time they discover that Galahad (Colin Firth returning) is still alive…
With that basic premise, the groundwork is laid for an over-bloated film that tries to sell itself on the highlights of the first film, whilst actually missing the details that made the first film so memorably enjoyable. The action is present. The cast are seemingly having fun. The humour is edgy. However the whole thing feels somewhat lifeless, with the dynamic energy of the first film replaced with excess. The stand-out action sequence of the first film – the frantically paced shootout and killing spree in the church – seems to be the guiding element for all the action sequences in this second film, resulting in a barrage of sensory overloads which, whilst looking nice in general, become tiresome pretty soon. How about not having the camera moving so much? How about not making it so we can’t actually follow what is happening, even though everything is in frame. It’s like the polar opposite of shaky-cam (where we can’t see anything due to jittering frame and swift edits), and it just as unwelcome. For one scene, any of the action segments in this film could have been exciting, but with so many uses of the technique…well…it gets as boring as all the swishing lightsabres did in Revenge of the Sith. For me, the most memorable scene in the first film was the beautiful exploding heads segment done to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance – colourful, comical, darkly engaging. Nothing in this second film comes anywhere near that, instead simply opting for hi-octane camera and action.
The cast, whilst it looks like they are still having fun, seem to forget that the audience are supposed to be in on the joke too. The only standout character is Moore as Poppy, a delightfully happy villain from start to finish. Her secret lair, an all American small town with robo-hounds and waiters, is a nice slice of Pleasantville, making her plans for world domination seem almost like a good idea. The fact her whole plan is to get drugs legalised, just as cigarettes and alcohol are, is beautifully subversive in nature, and skews the whole good/bad argument – although her methods put her clearly in the insane psychopath camp. Moore relishes the role, and moments with her on screen serve the film well, generally waking you up after a snoozefest of unwanted exposition, pointless cameos, or nonsense sub-plots. Regarding those pointless cameos – what is the point of casting Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges, parading them over the marketing, and then putting them on ice for most of the film (literally in one case)? They may as well have cut them entirely, they serve nothing to the film. I will, however, allow one extended cameo to remain as it actually offers a few rare comedy moments in amongst the mess on screen (I won’t reveal who it is – the marketing hasn’t included it, so let’s stay quiet for a while).
In fact, there’s a lot that could be cut from the film, which may have made it flow a lot better. At 141 minutes, the film is about 40 minutes too long, and feels like double that as a result. Some of the script seems to have been forced as a result of the first films success and criticisms. People said the closing moments of the first film (including the bum-shot) were too much, so, hey, why not write it that Eggsy and Tilde are in love, and have a whole romantic subplot, and have him meet her parents – to show it wasn’t just casual sex, so that makes it all fine! Hey, on that subject, how can we one-up the stakes on crossing the line? How about a tracking device that needs to be inserted into someone? Yeah! Hey, remember the ‘Manners Maketh The Man’ scene – can we riff on that? Yeah, why not! It’s all just pandering to the first film, but not actually growing the potential franchise. All the more of a shame given it is the same creative team of Goldman and Vaughn.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, in the end, a sub-average action film, bereft of the wry satire of the first film, and definitely overstays its welcome.