No major spoilers…just enough to tease and tickle your film fan senses into seeing it for yourself.
Matthew Vaughn is no stranger to bringing action to the silver screen, having sat in the Director’s chair for X-Men: First Class, where a bunch of mutant superheroes save the world and for Kick Ass, in which a prepubescent girl, teenager and costumed Nicholas Cage deliver the action. In Vaughn’s latest work, the action is brought by none other than a suave and smooth but lethal elite of gentleman who make up an independent secret British intelligence organisation known as The Kingsmen.
It’s no surprise then that Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens with an exhilarating mix of a bang, a roar and a wow in a thrilling car chase through the streets of London as Taron Egerton reprises his role as young Kingsman agent, ‘Eggsy’, who, in the scene in question, is being chased by stuck-up and cowardly antagonist from the first film, Charlie (Edward Holcroft). Viewed through intensely tight frames and nimble, neat camera work, the electrifying pursuit is quintessentially British, with Eggsy evading Charlie in a classic black London taxi (albeit a rather suped-up with-gadgets-and-weapons-hidden-everywhere-taxi) whilst zigzagging in and out of traffic in the capital, with the chase reaching its climax in Hyde Park. All in all, it makes for an explosive opening to what was a rollercoaster of a comedic action-adventure.
One might have thought it risky bringing back an antagonist as annoying as Charlie, but the film leverages continuity from its preceding instalment well. Flashback scenes, references to characters now deceased and events that occurred in the first film, plus the return of characters from the original film who were presumed dead, all aid the smooth transition to The Golden Circle. In many ways the sequel mirrors the style of the first film, beginning reasonably grounded echoing the narrative of most iconic spy thrillers…before lifting the lid on combat carnage and utter craziness.
When their base of operations is destroyed in a targeted attack, Eggsy and the remaining Kingsman operatives consume a vast quantity of alcohol, board a plane and seek the help of their lasso-swinging, Stetson-sporting, whisky swigging American cousin agency, Statesman. Under the guise of being a Bourbon Whisky distillery, Kingsman utilises Statesmen’s resources as they join forces to tackle drug cartel goddess, Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her criminal underworld organisation: The Golden Circle.
Three things make Kingsman: The Golden Circle a hit for me- the cool stunts and the brilliant use of slow-mo that made up the action, the side-splitting comedy and the all-star cast. The fine ensemble included five Oscar winners, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth and Elton John. Moore reportedly based her portrayal of villain Poppy on Gene Hackman’s characterization of Lex Luthor in the Superman movies of the late seventies and early eighties. Indeed her performance as eccentric and sickly deranged sociopath Poppy is reminiscent of legendary unhinged and disturbed Bond villains of the sixties like Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), but more discreetly demented and with a calculating steely edge to her.
Both Moore and Firth come across as refined and sophisticated acting professionals, which makes it all the more hilarious when the script decrees that they sprout perfectly-timed and impeccably delivered profanities. It’s just funny to hear posh people swear- fact.
Jokes aside, just as the first film illustrated the important message of ‘manners maketh man’ and not what class he (or she) came from or how much money he (or she) had, a thread which enjoys throwbacks in the sequel, Kingsman: the Golden Circle addresses important issues and raises through-provoking questions- such as is it ever right to play God with people’s lives deciding who lives and dies? If you had the power to let who you deemed the ‘world’s scum’ or criminals die would you act using that power? The guy who embodies some of these themes is Bruce Greenwood, who plays the president, interestingly for the third time in his acting life, having previously played the American head of state in Thirteen Days and National Treasure: Book of Secrets (I reckon there ought to be some sort of rule that if you play the American President three times or more you might as well run for office in real life).
Meanwhile, as the President’s Chief of Staff, Fox, Emily Watson highlights how succumbing to drug addiction, use and abuse is not simply black and white and can happen to anyone from a variety of backgrounds or walks of life. Mark Strong is delightful as Merlin, whilst the mentor/student relationship between Eggsy and Harry (Firth) is especially endearing. As for Elton John’s performance, well that actually caused the cinema speakers to ring with the audience’s laughter as it ricocheted around the theatre and then some.
Remember when I said the at the beginning that the film was a rollercoaster? Well this isn’t strictly true, well not throughout the entire film at least. The only drawback to the movie was the lull in the plot about two-thirds in. The pacing of the film was a little off, with the momentum going from full throttle to meagre plodding and could have done with the overall 2 hours 21-minute duration of the film being cut off at least at the two-hour mark just as Gazelle sliced and diced people’s limbs off in the first film.
A strong cast, emotive moments and plot twists however, aren’t the secret behind what makes Kingsman: The Golden Circle so great. It’s the fact that its outlandish and far-fetched plot, riddled with ridiculousness, is part of the movie’s charm and shows that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously and suggests that, at the end of the day, we shouldn’t take things, ourselves or life too seriously either.