It’s been two and a half years since Kingsman: The Secret Service dropped out of the sky and blew a crater in the spy-thriller genre. It took retro back with classic British style ala the best of the James Bond eras, and mixed in some modern ultra-violence (the Hate Church Massacre scene), with a solid story. It become one of the surprise hits of 2015, and now in 2017 we’re back again with Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Written by the duo who also brought us X-Men: First Class, Kick Ass, and Stardust – Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, the film continues several years after the first installment. Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, who has developed into a seasoned agent, codenamed Galahad, is working with agent Merlin (played by Mark Strong) and Sophie Cookson’s Roxy Morton. The big bad of the story this time is the drug overlord Poppy (played wonderfully by Julianne Moore).
The cast is solid, but after all of the edgy fun of the first film, there’s not a lot of new this time around. Nothing happens that really shocks us in the same way that we were before — last time we had the church, the task of shooting the dogs, the water test. Now the only thing that approaches the same level of freshness is the extreme out-there of Poppy having her evil lair built deep in a jungle on top of an ancient temple, and styled to look like anytown USA, circa the mid 1950s, complete with theater, burger joint, and street sellers.
When Poppy unleashes on the Kingsman to keep them from interfering with her plans, they are rocked back on their heels. With nowhere else to turn, they uncover their American counterparts: The Statesman (while the Kingsman agents are all codenamed after the knights of the round table, the Americans are all named after various alcoholic drinks). They’re competent agents, but the Stateman crew play the country good ‘ol boy gag into the ground pretty quickly (their leader is Jeff Bridges, who plays Champ), who spends most of his scenes opening various bottles of booze, sniffing it, pouring it, drinking, and offering up random bits of wisdom.
There’s a tracking bug planting scene that’s relatively uncomfortable – it seems to have been added only for a moment of titillation, and not much else. It’s relatively close to the underwear scene in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Sure, the film is fun, and has a few solid action pieces (it’s somewhat unfortunate that the main ones are the very beginning of the film, and the next one is two hours later for the final confrontation). In between the characters desperately try to have the depth and substance that they had the first time around. But since their individual arcs were played out in the first film, this time around it feels more forced than organic.
It’s worth seeing, and it’s definitely more worth seeing than It.
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