Kingsman: The Golden Circle

kingsman2-rev Kingsman: The Golden Circle  (2017)    20th Century Fox/Action-Comedy    RT: 141 minutes    Rated R (sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout, some sexual material)    Director: Matthew Vaughn    Screenplay: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn    Music: Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson    Cinematography: George Richmond    Release date: September 22, 2017 (US)    Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Elton John, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alstrom, Sophie Cookson, Michael Gambon, Poppy Delevingne, Bjorn Granath.

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 It’s a different world since the Austin Powers movies shagged their way to the top of the box office charts. It’s no longer enough to poke fun at James Bond/Flint spy flicks from the 60s. It’s also no longer enough to make such a spoof a showcase for a gifted comic actor like Mike Myers. Now they have to be bigger and wilder in order to connect with the Jason Bourne generation. Now the lead actors have to play it straight (or semi-straight) to give it a cheekier feel. Nonetheless, the target of the Kingsman movies remains British gentleman spy movies like The Ipcress File. Instead of complex and cerebral, the plotlines are convoluted and silly.

 Take Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, in which the villain du jour is a drug kingpin with a predilection for turning her adversaries into hamburger meat which she promptly grills and serves to new underlings as a test of their allegiance. That said kingpin is played by Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) makes it all the loopier. In fact, the cast of Kingsman: The Golden Circle includes three more Oscar winners- Firth (The King’s Speech), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) and Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart). If you wish to expand the parameters, there’s also a Grammy winner in the mix, Sir Elton John playing a bizarre version of himself.

 kingsman2Somebody is out to get the Kingsman. In the opening scene, an old enemy shows up and unsuccessfully tries to take down our hero Eggsy (Egerton) in a hand-to-mechanical hand fight in a speeding car. Eggsy wins the battle but loses the war as said mechanical arm (left behind by the owner) hacks into the Kingsman computer system and provides the means for killing all agents and destroying all secret locations. The only ones left standing are Eggsy and tech support geek Merlin (Strong, The Imitation Game). By way of something called the Doomsday Protocol, they learn of a secret organization called “Statesman” which is basically the American version of Kingsman (because Americanized versions of British things are always successful!).

 Their secret HQ is located in whiskey distillery in Kentucky; the agents are lasso and bullwhip-wielding cowboys. They’re only too happy to help out their British cousins in their time of need; that is, after they’re convinced that the Brits are who they say they are. The Americans also have a surprise for their guests. It turns out Eggsy’s old mentor Harry (Firth) wasn’t killed in the first movie after all. He survived the shot to the head but now suffers from retrograde amnesia meaning he doesn’t remember his former colleagues or anything of his old life as a secret agent. Now he’s into butterflies. Head Statesman Champagne (Bridges) tells the Kingsman of a criminal organization called “The Golden Circle”. It’s led by Poppy Adams, a deranged mastermind whose secret lair in the jungles of Cambodia resembles a small American town circa the 1950s replete with beauty salons and burger joints. She has an evil plan to force the President (Greenwood, Double Jeopardy) to legalize all narcotics or else millions of users will die, even casual ones like the Chief of Staff (Watson, Breaking the Waves). It’s up to the remaining Kingman agents, with some help from Agent Whiskey (Pascal, Narcos), to stop her.

 While Kingsman: The Golden Circle goofs on Harry Palmer (Michael Caine’s secret agent from Ipcress File), the villain and story are right out of a James Bond flick. That being said, it’s a pretty good movie. I’m a big fan of the first one and was elated when they announced they were doing a sequel. Therein lies the problem. It suffers from a mild case of sequelitis meaning it’s only slightly inferior to the first movie. It’s fun but it tries too hard to recreate the cheeky, anarchic spirit that defined the original Kingsman and as a result, comes up a bit short. It runs a little longer than it needs to and I didn’t like the use of CGI in the fight scenes. At the same time, there’s no way the makers could have done the things they do in Kingsman: The Golden Circle without it. There’s a bit with an out-of-control ski lift that I liked.

 I had some minor problems with Kingsman: The Golden Circle but I find it difficult to be hard on a movie that’s so eager to please. I had a good time watching it. It’s silly, violent, crude, crazy and WAY over the top. Not every scene or gag works. The scene where Eggsy has dinner with his girlfriend’s family (the Swedish royal family) is like something out of a sitcom with a friend telling him what to say via a pair of computerized eyeglasses (secret agents have some neat gadgets!). As much as returning director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) tries to avoid conventionality, the subplot about Eggsy’s relationship with his commitment-minded gf (Alstrom) feels almost entirely familiar. Almost, except for Eggsy asking her permission to sleep with a hot girl that could lead him to the Golden Circle. He needs to plant a tracking device and the only way to do it is through bodily secretion. He needs to put his finger in a bodily orifice and I don’t mean her nose.

 The cast of Kingsman: The Golden Circle looks like they’re having fun so why knock any of the performances. Bridges is especially good as the head of Statesman and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) has a few moments as an agent affected by the evil plan. Berry, as an American IT geek, is also quite good. I do have to say that Elton John, while a great sport, can’t act. He’s willing to goof on his own image but it just doesn’t sound natural. He appears self-conscious most of the time. There are some great action set-pieces and it’s very violent (always a selling point for me). It’s a good popcorn movie, nice escapist fare. It’s not a smooth ride, it hits a few bumps in the road, but it’s an enjoyable one. 

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