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‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ (review)

Produced by Matthew Vaughn,
David Reid, Adam Bohling

Screenplay by
Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Based on Kingsman by
Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore,
Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry,
Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges,
Pedro Pascal, Bruce Greenwood, Hanna Alström

 

Fall is almost upon us and soon we’ll be fully into the awards season, watching Oscar bait that stayed away from the shine of a summer box office.

Until then, we still have a few more hopeful summer blockbusters to get through.

This includes sequel to 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Matthew Vaughn’s latest is not quite as successful as the original, keeping the highly stylized fight scenes and bawdy humor but dropping much of the lightness and charm that made the first Kingsman so refreshing. The characters we loved are all there, but everyone seems to be discreetly checking their watches off camera.

“Eggsy” (Taron Egerton) is now living the good life as a super spy for the Kingsman and boyfriend to Swedish princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). When conniving and cheerful drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) takes out all the headquarters of the Kingsman, Eggsy and tech whiz Merlin (Mark Strong) turn to their American brethren – the liquor-swilling, lasso-spinning Statesman. Working with Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) they race to track down Poppy before she launches a plan that would change the world’s markets.

It seems as if finding the worst ways to handle progressive causes will be a sticking point continuing theme in this series.

Samuel L. Jackson’s character had a nefarious way to end global warming (get rid of all the people) and Poppy has a similar prescription for decriminalizing the many products in her drug empire. With a lighter hand this would have been a really fun plot point. And indeed, it does seem like Moore is one of the few people fully engaged in her character. She gleefully wages war from a jungle compound modeled after Main Street USA, adding a touch of sweetheart sociopath to everything. There is so much potential in a 50s nostalgic, Harvard educated, sugar and spice crime lord.

But the haphazard pacing that keeps us in awkward scenes too long and rushes through rewarding sequences means no one is used properly. The all-star cast is wasted with many of them phoning it in. Thankfully, even when engaging at a superficial level they are all phenomenal actors and actresses worth watching,

The jump across the pond introduces us to new characters (and brings back some old ones), but it failed to bring the charm on the trip over. It would be one thing if the Americans stayed a boisterous devil-may-care crew that acted as foil to the English counterpart. But Pascal is as reserved as an Englishman and the boisterous Tatum is only a brief guest in the film.

The fights are just as mind-boggling as the originals with a wide array of gadgets and physical stunts, opening with a high-energy action sequence inside a hijacked cab speeding along the night streets. Vaughn has decided to lean even more heavily on the CGI in the sequel. This would be a non-issue except that almost none of the enhanced scenes are done justice. It’s strange to see so many poorly rendered backgrounds in such a large budget movie and yet…Here we are.

Taron Egerton gives us a far more serious and almost morose Eggsy that wavers between tiring and endearing. It’s a shame that the joy that made the character so likeable in the first place seems to be all but missing this time.

The same can be said for Colin Firth’s revived Galahad, though there are a few moments where his true potential shines through. Mark Strong as Merlin is a perfect holdover, maintaining so many of the qualities that made him dear as the straightforward and sharp-witted tech support for the Kingsman. Pedro Pascal’s best scenes were shared by his stunt double, as his action sequences with an electronically enhanced lasso are pure fun. Halle Berry would have been better served out in the field rather than behind a computer. Breakout star, however, surely goes to the brilliant cameo by Elton John, who brings laughs every time he appears.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not as fun as the first, but it is still a movie to see for where it succeeds, namely in Moore’s performance and any fight scene with Pascal.

The original was a breath of fresh air to the genre, but the sequel adheres closely to espionage tropes laid out over the years. Yet it’s those exact spy elements that made us go to the original movies in the first place, so perhaps it is not the worst to see them emulated in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Certainly, the film at least deserves a close investigation.

 

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