Film Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The idea behind the Kingsman franchise, partly, was to lampoon the spy thrillers of yesteryear, most notably the Bond films. We see a lot of the same kind of tropes: the stylish suits, the fancy gadgets, the quirky bad guys, etc. This also includes the lack of well-developed female characters. The issue with Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and now with Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) is that the satire is not biting. Instead of poking fun at and flipping the tropes on their head, director Matthew Vaughn and his team doubled down and inflated them. Just as he did with the Kick-Ass franchise, Vaughn takes a well-known premise and amps up both the violence and vulgar humor, resulting in something that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for dirty jokes and bad language, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But Vaughn (who cowrote the screenplay with Jane Goldman) goes about his material with a lowbrow and mean-spirited nature that’s simply a turn off. The narrative actually embraces its blatant misogyny. For example: Our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) gets forced into a mission to find an underground organization that has targeted the Kingsman agency for destruction. Part of his task is to plant a tracking device on an unsuspecting female mark (Poppy Delevingne). But instead of putting it on her clothes or on the bottom of her shoes, the script calls for Eggsy to plant the device in a certain sexual orifice. I wonder how much glee the production had as they pushed the camera in at an extreme close up as Eggsy performed the deed. But wait! At least Eggsy called his girlfriend (Hanna Alstrom) beforehand to let her know that what he was doing was only his job and nothing more. What a gentleman.
This is the kind of stuff an immature kid would find funny, and that’s the tone Vaughn takes. He sets up scenarios and tries to find the most extreme path to get a reaction out of the audience. The villain this go around (Julianne Moore) has a fetish for 1950s Americana. Her secret hideout has a bowling alley, an old style theater, and a main office that looks like the inspiration of a Johnny Rockets restaurant. I was surprised that her underlings didn’t go around on skates. But her obsession for mid 20th century nostalgia is not what makes her weird. What makes her weird is her initiation process for new recruits. This involves them eating a cheeseburger with a meat patty made out of human remains. I hope the new guys brought some Pepto Bismol with them as they signed up.
Yuck. None of what I described so far matters to the plot, which is a series of loosely connected episodes that either has unrelenting action or crude sex jokes. The twist this time is that Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) join forces with their American counterparts, appropriately named the Statesman agency. Each of the Statesman members are named after a drink: Champagne/Champ (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry). The juxtaposition of the British and American agents allow for some cringe-worthy jokes, namely: the British agents are overly sophisticated and stiff while the Americans are rough and tumble cowboys who all speak with an exaggerated southern drawl. Nuance is nowhere to be found ‘round these parts.
There’s a nervous energy in the way Vaughn shoots his action. The camera seems almost restless in the way it captures an action scene from every possible angle, zooming left and right with increasing velocity. The opening set piece takes place in a speeding car, with Eggsy fighting off a bad guy in the back seat. With the help of CGI, the scene is filmed from dozens of perspectives, never settling on a shot for more than a second or two. With every special effect, use of slow motion, or computer-assisted trick utilized, the thrill and suspense dissipate. How are we supposed to feel any kind of tension or suspense if we know that everything we’re seeing is noticeably fake? I wasn’t so much on the edge of my seat with excitement as I was with nausea.
If you liked the first Kingsman, then chances are you’re going to like the sequel. But for those of you that didn’t like it, there’s nothing here that’s going to turn you around on this franchise. Where the first film – at the very least – had a spark of creativity going for it, this one is simply a weird mish mash of different tones. At one point we’re supposed to laugh at people getting brutally murdered, and the next we’re expected to be emotionally drawn in as Eggsy reconciles his grief over the fate of his mentor, Harry (Colin Firth). Excuse me while I roll my eyes. It says a lot about a movie that an Elton John cameo is the best thing it has going.