Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Julianne More, Pedro Pascal, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Hanna Alstrom, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood and Elton John
Running Time: 2 Hrs, 21 Mins
Well, that was a ride.
When Kingsman The Secret Service was released a few years ago, it was a breath of fresh air for movie goers. Its hyper-kinetic action and mix of humour, social commentary and outlandish storytelling was a hit with audiences. It was basically James Bond on speed but was still somehow stylish and smart. A sequel was inevitable but fans worried if a follow up would be able to capture the same lightning in the silver screen bottle again.
Well, director Matt Vaughn and company managed to pull it off.
Poppy (Julianne Moore) has cornered the entire global drug trade and runs her massive cartel-called the Golden Circle-from ruins in Cambodia. But she isn’t just content making billions of dollars from drugs. No, she’s hungry for the fame and recognition she feels her efforts deserve. So she takes the entire world hostage, lacing her drugs with a fatal toxin that only she possesses the antidote for. Her terms are simple; end the war on drugs, legalize previously banned substances and grant drug lords and dealers the world over legal immunity. Otherwise, the millions of people who have sampled her products, from joints and medicinal marijuana o heroine and cocaine, will all die horrible deaths.
To insure her plan’s success, Poppy launches a preemptive strike against the Kingsmen, the one organization she thinks can stop her. Only Galahad (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) survive her deadly assault, which wipes out everyone else in the entire organization. The two surviving agents soon stumble upon a secret American organization akin to their own-the Statesmen. The Statesmen agree to lend their considerable resources to their British cousins to thwart Poppy and avenge the fallen Kingsmen. Along the way, Galahad and Merlin make a shocking discovery and discover that there are also some political opponents, both at the highest level of government as well as among their comrades, to their mission.
The first thing you need to know about this movie is that you shouldn’t take it seriously. It doesn’t even take itself seriously. It gleefully embraces its absurdity and its just plain fun to watch. The actions scenes and fights live somewhere between riveting and ridiculous and everyone involved in the action scenes should get Oscars just for puling some of this stuff off. And the action is what really sells Kingsman. It dives right in and doesn’t look back.
The downside to that is some of the moments the film slows down to tell its story feel forced. You may occasionally find yourself waiting for the next fight or shootout or crazy battle royal to break out. But those warts are easily balanced out by the rest of the film’s strengths and after seeing the Golden Circle, you may never look at a lasso the same way ever again.
The performances weren’t half bad either. It’s fun watching Egsy fill his new role as agent Gallahad, and Taron Egerton sells it. While Egsy is now a stylish, polished gentleman spy wooing his princess girlfriend, he still keeps his street tough roots and allows them to bubble to the surface every now and then. Mark Strong is convincing as the technical and emotional bedrock of the remaining Kingsmen and Pedro Pascal does a fantastic job as senior Statesman Agent Whiskey (you’ll genuinely find yourself asking if this was the same guy who brought Oberynn Martel to life in Game of Thrones). Channing Tatum was a solid choice as rough around the edges Statesman Tequila and Jeff Bridges barks his way through his scenes as Champaign, head of the Kingsmen’s American cousins.
One big takeaway was Colin Firths understated performance as the resurrected Galahad. Firth brings back the suave confidence he so effortlessly wore in the first Kingsman as an infallible and stylish man of action. But he subtly balances it with an emotional caution and uncertainty following his resurrection.
And who knew Elton John could be such a scene staler? Sir Elton provides some of the biggest laughs and steals the show virtually every time he’s on camera. I don’t now how they talked him into this role, but I’m glad they did.
While the action choreographers, actors and Vaughn himself deserve a lot of credit for the finished product, the writers deserve some kudos as well. The story, while often recklessly absurd (Poppy has turned her jungle hideout into a shrine to the 1950’s, including a salon where her henchman have their fingerprints burned off, a bowling alley and a classic diner where she grinds people into hamburgers), the story somehow manages to incorporate stereotypes without being insulting. While the British spies are men of upstanding style and manners, the American Statesmen are cowboy hat wearing, big belt buckled fans of whiskey and shotguns. Yet the Americans still have their own proud sense of couth and honour, comparable to their British counterparts.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is basically a comic come to life without any pretension. It knows what it is and goes full bore from there. Kingsman is pure entertainment and fun. It isn’t going to challenge you on any level and it isn’t meant to. It’s an amusement park ride on film. It isn’t a family flick but it will appeal to the mischievous, adventurous kid living inside you.