Synopsis – When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.
My Take – Manners, Maketh, Man!, the elegant phrase that got many of us fired up years three years ago is back! Walking into the special screening of the film back in 2014, I had very little knowledge about the film, other than the fact that Colin Firth & Samuel L Jackson were involved and it had a decent looking trailer. But as the end credits rolled in, I knew a franchise has been born. Based on a relatively obscure comic book series from Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, director Matthew Vaughn‘s ultra-violent and wickedly depraved action comedy was a breath of fresh air for cinema-goers with its inventively over the top action, larger than life characters and unique approach to its genre sparking glowing audience reactions and a box-office haul north of $414.4 million dollars. The film had a lot of tropes missing from spy films now days, it had original tech, a keen origin story of how its lead character, who lacked a silver spoon turned into your everyday gentleman by becoming an agent in a secret organization, extensive training and perhaps the riskiest action scene in a modern film. With audiences clambering for more, Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class) and his team return for the a sequel that succumbs to the tendency to do everything its predecessor did bigger, louder and wilder. Honestly, if you look at the film under a microscope it doesn’t bring anything new in terms of plot direction or a developed baddie with meaningful motivations but these aren’t what made the original great and they sure aren’t what made this sequel great either, it’s brilliant because the script did not lose its unique British setting that set the first film apart from so many other spy comedies, along with an unimaginable amalgamation of the seriousness of the recent James Bond films and the absolute ridiculousness of the Austin Powers series. Yes, this is a solid sequel that contains just as much fun and humor as its predecessor.
Taking place one year after the events of the first film, the story follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who is now one of Kingsman’s top operatives and is living a good life with his girlfriend, Sweden’s Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). However, after waiving off a night of attack from Charlie (Edward Holcroft), a former Kingsman recruit, he learns that all Kingsman locations around the U.K. have been attacked, killing all agents including his best friend Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and Kingsman chief Arthur (Michael Gambon). Being the only surviving field agent, Eggsy along with Merlin (Mark Strong), the only surviving staff member, pursue the Kingsman Doomsday Protocol, which leads them to their American counterparts called The Statesman, who like their tailor shop, use a distillery as a front for their super-secret spy organization. Headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who is ready to put all Statesman resources at the disposal including its agents, Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and their IT specialist, Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), to help them exact their revenge on Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a sweet but ruthless international drug kingpin and leader of the organization known as The Golden Circle, who launched the missile attack. They also learn that Poppy, who lives in a 1950s-inspired lair out of ancient ruins deep in the jungles of Cambodia, has laced every recreational drug in the world with a deadly toxin, & is demanding that President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood) legalize all form of drugs, in order for her to release the antidote that can cure everyone. Realizing that Poppy is pursuing an agenda that could lead to the deaths of many millions of people around the world & defeating her evil plans will take every bit of toughness, skill and bravery from the Statesman and Kingsman organizations – including that of the presumably dead Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who is alive & now living at the Statesman headquarters, but isn’t the Galahad whom Eggsy and Merlin knew. Featuring the same ridiculously over-the-top action and unique British charm, this film is a worthy follow-up to the 2015 film. Matthew Vaughn’s slick, fast- paced direction showcases his talent for cleverly choreographed fight scenes and quirky comic relief, which few other directors would be able to replicate successfully. The film has all of the action, attitude and appeal of the first one, but improves on its own formula. The gadgets and the fight sequences are as delightfully over-the-top as the original, but the violence is (appropriately) just a shade less gleeful (no heads exploding into fireworks set to music) and, even though there’s still a strong us-against-the-world vibe, this script is a little less mean-spirited and doesn’t try to make every single person and group outside of Kingsman (and Statesman) into evil caricatures. Plus do you all remember the edgy humor the first film had? Well the magic continues here! It starts like always with the banter between agents, well-timed and well-delivered by our cast to maximize the punch at hand, and then comes the reactions of our agents as their thrown ridiculous curve balls meant to hinder their way. This is also pretty intense film that keeps of moving, and draws us in, right until the end. We travel from a Music festival in England to the Alps, to the heartland of the United States. For a film running for about 141 minutes, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it at all to me. With all the laughs, emotional investment, and action, you’ll experience a time warp to the end of the film. The interesting thing about this film is that it tries to look at both sides of the drug epidemic. In one sense we know that drugs are bad, and that drug lords are pretty despicable creatures, yet we also have the idea that many of the users are actually innocent victims.
However not everybody sees it that way, and when it is the users that are being held to ransom, the question is suddenly raised as to who really cares. By creating a time bomb that will basically result in all drug users being killed raises the question of whether actually doing nothing is in the end a good thing. Did I mention Poppy has two killer robot dogs to protect her as well as a kidnapped Elton John (no kidding!) for her own entertainment/ amusement? It’s silly all right and even more comical than before, notwithstanding Poppy’s penchant for turning her disloyal subjects into cheeseburger filling using a heavy-duty industrial meat-grinder. There is indeed a lot going on at the same time – on top of taking down Poppy and her henchman Charles, Eggsy has to contend with a somewhat off-form Harry who doesn’t quite have the same aim, reflexes and worse, occasionally experiences fluttery butterfly hallucinations (before he chose military service, Harry had ambition to be a lepidopterist); a third-act turn also has Harry suspecting that Agent Whiskey has been working against them all along; and last but not least, a US President who has schemed to let millions of infected people, including his own Chief of Staff (Emily Watson), perish in order to fulfill his personal agenda of ending the war on drugs in one fell swoop. With its massive runtime, director Matthew Vaughn and his long-time screen writing collaborator Jane Goldman at first seem to struggle to tie all the strands together compellingly, yet somehow manage it by the end in quite a compelling way. It’s still a British film dominated by British acting, I was surprised how little Channing Tatum was in it given how prevalent he was in the trailer, and in fact takes small pops at America throughout. From a technical standpoint this film looks amazing. Based on his earlier work as well, it has been quite obvious how well director Matthew Vaughn can craft great action sequences and film them with a hand-held camera where everything remains in plain sight. His special effects and visual effects teams are spot on in handling such scenes, and the set design is also really cool, especially the headquarters for the Statesman. Even when the action finds itself compressed into tiny spaces (such as the back of a cab) the fight remains inventive and energetic. These very moments made the film for me and they still stand out as being some of the best action sequences I’ve witnessed since, the first film. Although none quite matches the same breath-taking audacity as the church massacre of the firm film, this too has a bar fight which sees Agent Whiskey teach some sneering local troublemakers a lesson with his electric lasso, followed by a wild shootout at a deserted lodge high up in the snowy Italian mountainside, and finally the climactic showdown at Poppy Land that sees Eggsy and Harry (with Elton as an unlikely ally, no less) confront their arch nemesis and her array of gadgets. To be sure, Vaughn hasn’t lost his imagination, verve or irreverence in the able blend of high-octane action and tongue-in-cheek humor, and these aggressively stylized sequences are undoubtedly the highlight of the film and worth the price of admission alone. The cast of characters, both new and old, lend themselves to some highly entertaining situations, including a hilarious performance from Elton John playing a fictionalized version of himself. Colin Firth, Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Hanna Alström, Edward Holcroft, Channing Tatum, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson and even Halle Berry turn in really good performances. However, the real stand-out, though, was Julianne Moore as the film’s villain. It’s just so rare to see her play such an evil character so effectively and so much fun to watch, considering her reputation for usually playing more down rated likable roles. On the whole, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is an equally fun, impressive and energetic follow up to a solid predecessor.
Directed – Matthew Vaughn
Rated – R
Run Time – 141 minutes