KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Review: 5 out of 10 (Eggsy on your Face)
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is the latest chapter of this spy comedy series directed by Matthew Vaughn and a sequel to KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. The film features Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong reprising their roles from the first film and Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges joining the cast. When the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage by a redheaded drug queen aptly named Poppy (Julianne Moore) , Eggsy and Merlin (Edgerton and Strong) find their journey leads them to the discovery of an American mirror spy organization called Statesman. The American cousins of the Kingsman includes Tatum, Bridges, and Pascal as the Kentucky branch of the secret spy organization-- with a whiskey brand as their cover rather than a tailor. But don't be fooled by the marketing of this film, these American counterparts (save one) are little more than window dressing to the movie. Those hoping for a Channing Tatum spy film will be pretty disappointed here. With the world at risk and a drug lord holding the world for ransom, the two organizations team up (sort of) to foil the plans of the baddie and save the world. And if that sounds fairly pedestrian, well, it is that part of the plot that is certainly the most uninspired. Though Julianne Moore is clearly having fun here in this villain role, the plot of this movie has been done dozens of times over. The result is a paint-by-numbers storyline that is so predictable that I was calling out scenes sometimes 10 and 15 minutes before they developed.
Look, there are good sequels and there are bad sequels and there are those that are just flat out unimaginative. Such is the case with KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE. I absolutely loved the original film and gave it my highest score possible--praising it as a clever and fun take on the spy film that a new generation of fans badly needed. It is a movie that took a genre and took some risks in its approach.The original film gave special attention to world building with characterization, rules, gadgets, and even spy abilities. And although it was goofy and over-the-top and at times flat out zany--it obeyed the rules it created. There was order in the world that was built. And that is what made it fun. As audacious as it was, there was an insane plausibility to it all. The movie did *enough* to offer a suspension of disbelief to the audience so they could let go and enjoy that world.
This sequel breaks those rules or outright ignores them--paying no attention to the laws and order and world building the first film worked so hard to create. And it seems a shame since all the main players return here, including the director. But in this case, it feels more like a return for a cash grab than investing again in the world the first film offered. Colin Firth's return (which is no spoiler since he is in every trailer and commercial) unfortunately is nothing like the original. Firth seems to be sleepwalking through every scene, looking like he needs a bit more caffeine in his tea. The film spends far too much time in telling the story of his return, and puts some silly and unexplained plot contrivances alongside it that handicaps the character and the performance. Worse yet is the tired idea that a person with limitations, in this case blinded in one eye, who spends a good bit of the film unable to fight, shoot, or defend themselves will *miraculously* be able to suddenly do all of those things without any explanation at all. This world has gadgets--give the man a pill or a serum and fix his spatial eyesight... don't just suddenly ALLOW him to overcome his physical limitations with no explanation at all... not when you have plausible explanations in front of you that a single line of dialogue could repair. That is one example of dozens of issues in this film that come off as lazy. The other issue here is editing. The film is jumping back and forth between the Statesman to Kingsman to Poppy to a girlfriend subplot and then to Harry the disabled spy and over and back again. For a good hour, the film spins far too many plates and tries to keep them all in the air by crosscutting the action. It ends up being either confusing or flat out boring.
There are some fun sequences and creative action set pieces. Vaughn infuses the movie with a fun soundtrack. Although, I have to say-- what is with the John Denver obsession in 2017? This is the fourth film this year to dip into the Denver bucket, so here it feels like a joke that had a payoff that misses because other movies already stole the thunder. For fans of the original, tread carefully and lower your expectations. There are some fun sequences, but a few deus ex machinas at the end and a fairly predictable story makes for a dullish sequel. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE goes over more like a lead balloon.