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September 22, 2017

Latest Kingsman Flick Continues to Kick Butt

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Written by: Gregg "Wonderllama" Snider
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When Kingsman: The Secret Service hit theaters in 2014, it was a sharp, funny, action-packed breath of fresh air in a field full of dour, grim spy thrillers. It pulled off an impressive high-wire act: it was simultaneously a loving homage to old-school James Bond movies, a hyperkinetic action-thriller, and a brilliant send-up of, well, hyperkinetic action thrillers. It boasted an impressive pedigree: written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), based on the comic book The Secret Service by acclaimed writer Mark Millar (Captain America: Civil War, too many others to list), and starring the likes of Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Sam Jackson.

So, you know…no pressure, sequel-wise.

The opening scene of Kingsman: The Golden Circle lays to rest any concerns about sequel-itis. It is one of the most entertaining, high-octane scenes in recent memory, an insane high-speed car chase through a crowded downtown London, full of backseat brawling, nod-nod-wink-wink musical cues, and a car that would be equally at home in The Spy Who Loved Me or The Spy Who Shagged Me. It is also funny as hell, and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Channing Tatum as the American stereotype.

Channing Tatum as the American stereotype.

The Golden Circle opens not long after events in The Secret Service. Eggsy (Taron Eggerton) and Roxy (Sophie Cookson) are now full agents, Galahad and Lancelot, respectively. A mysterious, deadly blue rash, spread by recreational drug use, leads the agents on a globe-trotting chase to the Glastonbury Music Festival, the Italian Alps, and Cambodia to discover and stop whoever is behind the epidemic. Along the way, they meet their American counterparts, the Statesmen, purveyors of high-grade intelligence services and higher-grade whiskey (with an ‘e’, not to be confused with Scotch whisky). They eventually cross paths, and kitchen implements, with 1950s-obsessed drug kingpin, Poppy, played with absurd petulance by Julianne Moore (Hunger Games: Mockingjay). There are twists, turns, frenetic fights, and ‘splosions galore en route to its satisfying, if telegraphed, ending.

Sound predictable or repetitive? It is. Both Kingsman movies are cut from the same cloth (if you’ll pardon the obvious tailoring pun). Vaughn delivers a sequel that hits many of the same beats as its first installment, with similar plot points, villains, fights, and effects. But that rarely gets in the way of being generally entertaining so it hardly matters. Everything is in service to the action, the characters, the humor, and the goal of making The Golden Circle a jolly good, occasionally ludicrous, romp of a movie.

And with one exception, the characters are delightful. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know Colin Firth’s Harry is back. Sure, it takes a high-tech ret-con to explain the bit where he survived a point-blank head shot, but he’s such a brilliant part of both Kingsman entries, it can be forgiven. The reunion between him and Eggsy is genuinely emotional. Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) returns as natty sidekick, Merlin, full of dry humor and high-tech gadgets, a natural foil for Eggsy. Halle Berry (Catwoman) is Merlin’s American analog in Statesmen, eager for a chance to prove herself in the field. Jeff Bridges is at his most curmudgeonly. Channing Tatum chews the scenery as a hard-drinkin’, boot-scootin’, gun-totin’ Statesmen agent. British stalwarts Michael Gambon, Keith Allen and Emily Watson are welcome additions in small roles.

But that one exception, Julianne Moore’s Poppy, is a major problem. The character is a poorly-written effort to channel the cartoonish, manic glee Sam Jackson brought to Valentine in The Secret Service. Her baby-doll mannerisms and obsession with 1950s nostalgia are grating. For some reason, she has hyper-advanced robots. Inexplicably, she runs a global drug empire with virtually no employees out of a ’50s-style village, complete with robo-salon, bowling, and retro diner, deep in the Cambodian jungle. Her obsession with Elton John, who was a superstar 20+ years after the era Poppy is in love with, is a transparent way to have the Rocket Man in the movie (more on that below). Even in a movie full of outlandish cartoon characters, she is unbelievable.

Sir Elton, on the other hand, is so unexpected, so peevish and foul-mouthed playing Elton John, it’s almost possible to forget Poppy. He swears like a sailor. He’s resplendent in outfits that pay homage to his most outrageous ’70s wardrobe; feather suits, giant glasses, massive platform heels. He has some sweet karate moves. He’s so engaging playing against type that he damn near steals the show. His role alone justifies the R-rating.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a witty, flamboyant action-thriller-comedy, full of outrageous characters, balletic fight sequences, and clever nods to its source material. It’s also painful in places, with at least one scene that many will find rather squicky, as well as ponderous and often downright ludicrous. As always, your mileage may vary, but for my money, the laughs outweigh the eye-rolls; Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a rollicking good time.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Twentieth Century Fox; Rated R): B+

About the Author

Gregg "Wonderllama" Snider



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