Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Posted: October 5, 2017 in Film reviews
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Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore and Mark Strong.

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It’s ok. I’ll take the next ski-lift.

It’s been a year since Eggsy (Egerton) saved the world and became a fully-fledged Kingsman, taking on the codename Galahad, which had been his mentor Harry (Firth) Hart’s. He’s now working full time as an agent, and is living with Tilde (Hanna Alström) the crown princess of Sweden who he rescued at the end of the first film (and who had a rather novel way of, ahem, rewarding him for saving the world!)

An encounter with an old foe at first seems like nothing more than a case of attempted revenge, but it soon becomes clear that a larger plot is at hand orchestrated by Poppy Adams (Moore) head of the Golden Circle, a huge drug cartel. All too soon the Kingsman suffer major losses, and for Eggsy and Merlin (Strong) the only hope lies in contacting a secret American intelligence agency known as Statesman, whose front is a whisky distillery in Kentucky. When Poppy’s diabolical scheme is revealed the head of Statesman, Champagne (Jeff Bridges) throws the full weight of his agency behind the Englishmen, including assigning agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) and tech specialist Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) to help. There’s also assistance to be had from an old friend that no one expected to see again.

But not everyone is eager to stop Poppy’s plan, so can Eggsy save the day again, and can he maintain a relationship with Tilde whilst still undertaking some of the dirtier aspects of his job as a spy?

 

First off let’s state the obvious. The Golden Circle is nowhere near as good a film as The Secret Service was. That said, this is nowhere near the disaster some critics have suggested it is, though it is amazing that a film with so many flaws can still be hugely enjoyable.

It’s a bloated film though, and riding on the back of the initial film’s huge 2015 success Vaughn has secured a bigger budget, and seems to have spent a lot of it on hiring a huge retinue of famous faces, many of whom feature prominently in the film’s marketing yet don’t feature so heavily in the actual film. The worst example of this is Tatum, and if you’re a fan of the guy (and I’ve liked him in most things I’ve seen him in) then prepare for disappointment because he’s barely in the film at all—though there is an interesting tease at the end which suggests we may see more of him next time out. Bridges and Berry get more screen time, but neither is exactly integral to the plot. Bridges just hams it up and basically just gives orders, and Berry gets little more to do than provide Merlin with someone to talk to.

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“Sorry, we’re in the film five minutes and get paid how much?”

Yes much as with the first film, the female characters do tend to come off badly, from Berry to poor old Roxy (shunted off on a weather balloon in the first film she fares even worse here) and though it’s nice to see some continuity with the return of Tilde, she doesn’t get much to do either.

Thankfully Julianne Moore gets much more to sink her teeth into as Poppy, a deranged mastermind with a penchant for 1950s Americana and a chip on her shoulder because drugs get a bum rap compared to booze and fags.

There’s a nice performance from Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones’ Oberyn Martell) as Statesman Whisky (who’s arguably the most prominent Statesman screen time wise) and though some have sneered, I found the low-key performance from newcomer Reginald Dwight quite fun.

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A gentleman always keeps his gun dry.

The heart of the film, as before is the relationship between Eggsy and Harry, and yes it’s a spoiler, but given they’ve plastered Colin Firth all over the trailers and the posters, I’d be amazed if anyone went in and was surprised to see Harry back from the dead. I won’t go into details about how he’s resurrected. Suffice to say it’s ridiculous, but Egerton, Firth and Strong collectively make it work, and frankly given how cool Harry Hart is, I’m tempted to give the filmmakers a bye.

Egerton continues to impress as Eggsy, switching effortlessly between working class kid from the wrong side of the tracks and debonair superspy with nary a missed beat. He has an effortless natural charm that makes him difficult not to root for. As for Firth his charm is far more practiced, but no less affecting, and I could watch the two of them all day.

Which is just as well given some of the places the film goes.

Yes, it’s time to talk about Glastonbury.

Anyone who’s seen the first film will remember the bit at the end, what was seen as an offensive misstep by many. Now I’ve gone out to bat for that scene a few times. It’s not that I think it’s funny, and it isn’t that I think the film needs it, but in what is essentially a Roger Moore Bond film turned up to eleven, there is a certain logic to the film finishing like a Moore Bond, only more so.

I have no desire to defend the Glastonbury scene. If the bum joke straddled the line then what happens in the yurt here crosses the line. As the wise philosopher Joey from Friends so eloquently put it. “You crossed the line, in fact you’re so far past the line you can’t even see it anymore. The line is a dot to you!” It’s gross and offensive and effectively features sexual assault. Of course, all the Bonds have seduced women to gain an edge over the years, but there’s something especially icky here, taking the juvenility of Austin Powers and turning it up to eleven, and if what happens in Glasto stays in Glasto, and I was able to set it aside and enjoy the remainder of the film, be under no illusions that this was down to masterful direction or nuanced writing. No, it was down to Egerton’s performance.

I look forward to Kingsman 3, I just hope Vaughn doesn’t feel the need to outdo himself once again, because he doesn’t need to do it. He has a great cast and a fun universe. Which doesn’t mean I want him to play it safe, he just needs someone to point out when he’s gone too far. Frankly I’d expect screenwriter Jane Goldman to do just that.

It’s too long and too baggy, and shoehorns way too many big names in to no great effect, but with Egerton and Firth on top form, and with a slew of exciting set pieces this is an enjoyable romp. I just hope Vaughn tones down the mysoginy, celeb cameos and too new the knuckle (literally) stuff next time out. I’m nowhere near being tired of Eggsy and Harry, but I might be a lot closer to being tired of Vaughn!

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That’s not a Mark Strong. This is a Mark Strong.

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