Mark Reviews Movies

Kingsman: The Golden Circle


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Hanna Alström, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holcroft, Elton John, Poppy Delevingne, Bruce Davidson, Emily Watson, Sophie Cookson, Michael Gambon

MPAA Rating: R (for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material)

Running Time: 2:21

Release Date: 9/22/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 21, 2017

Kingsman: The Secret Service was alternately goofy and vicious, and while those two tones never quite jibed, the movie, to a certain degree, at least knew it was parodying the goofier elements of spy movies. The sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle has bought fully into its own brand. The movie is no longer mocking or embracing the conventions of its genre forebears. It is its own thing now, and since the first movie could never figure out if it was a parody or a straightforward adventure, to eliminate the more entertaining part of the iffy formula turns out to be an error. This entry is an alternately goofy and vicious spy movie, and that's it.

The screenplay by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn (based on the comic book series The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons) has taken the first movie's mythology—of a private intelligence firm that deals with international intrigue without any political alliances—and, by the end of the first act, literally blown it to smithereens. The Kingsman agency is finished, and there's something freeing and rather twisted about the idea of killing off an entire premise, including almost all of the characters who are part of it.

The movie seems to be announcing that it's starting from scratch by destroying all of the Kingsman offices and agents. It's not, of course, but when a movie is constructed entirely on surface-level matters, a cosmetic change of scenery and the cast is about the best that can be expected.

The survivors of the ten-pronged missile attack on the agency are the service's newest recruit Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Kingsman tech guru Merlin (Mark Strong). There's a doomsday protocol in place for such an event, and it leads the two to a whiskey distillery in Kentucky called Statesman.

As one might expect on account of the name, Statesman, like the Kingsman tailor shop, is a cover for a similar intelligence firm—this one filled with agents who dress like cowboys, wield revolvers, and have codenames inspired by drinks. Tequila (Channing Tatum) is the service's star agent, who spits chewing tobacco with preternatural precision. Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) has an electrified lasso and a retractable whip. Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) is their technology expert, and the whole operation is overseen by Champ (Jeff Bridges), which is short for Champagne.

This is about as clever as the movie gets, unless one counts the elaborate way it comes up with an excuse to have a shot that digitally recreates a gynecological examination as cleverness. Basically, the Statesman agency has developed a tracking device that works by attaching itself to a mucus membrane, and since it's unlikely that a secret agent would have an excuse to stick his finger up a target's nose, there's really only one other option. In close-up, Vaughn's camera tracks Eggsy's finger with device attached, as it moves down and into a woman's body. The scene is probably creepier and more unsavory than it sounds.

The entire movie has an unpleasant relationship with the human body. Goons are shot and sliced, of course, as Eggsy, Whiskey, and a resurrected but, at first, amnesic and, later, mentally messed-up Harry (Colin Firth) take out henchmen during fight scenes, in which the camera spins around the combatants. There's an early fight in the backseat of a car that starts the twirling commotion with little consideration for comprehension, and Vaughn, deciding to take his one trick and run it into the ground, repeats it again and again.

The villain this time is Poppy (Julianne Moore), the leader of the biggest drug cartel in the world, who lives in a 1950s-style town on a mountain in the middle of a jungle in Cambodia. She punishes a betrayal by having a new recruit shove the betrayer into a meat grinder. She then feeds the new guy his former friend in the form of a cheeseburger. Needless to say, the grinder gets another workout later in the movie, but this time, Vaughn ensures that the camera follows the body as it moves all the way down the spinning blades.

For form's sake, the plot involves Poppy's plan to poison people with her product, in order to blackmail a sinister U.S. President (who wants drug users dead, anyway) into legalizing it all, man. Obviously, the poisoning death is unnecessarily gruesome, but those two characteristics—unnecessary and gruesome—seem to be the defining ones of Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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