Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Director - Matthew Vaughn
Cast - Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Elton John
Rating - 2/5
From this moment on – at least until next month, when Kingsman: The Golden Circle ends its theatrical run, and with it, evaporates from public consciousness - when people complain about sequels not being ‘as good as the first one’, let this film be the one that pops into your head.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the second in the surprise series of films based on a (highly recommended) comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, is a film plagued by many problems, the least of which is the baffling manner in which it treats its characters – they’re strangely isolated and underused, the lot of them. Like some bizarre form of actor humiliation, the more celebrated you are, the more embarrassing your role in Kingsman 2 is likely to be.
Of the four Oscar-winners in its cast, one remains confined to a padded cell for more than half the movie, hallucinating butterflies; another exclusively spends her time staring at large computer screens, the third drinks whiskey in a conference room, pausing only to deliver unsolicited lectures about the brewery business; while the fourth – Julianne Moore – (literally) makes minced meat out of her enemies halfway across the world. Each of these fine actors – not to mention poor Channing Tatum, who after promisingly strutting into the movie finds himself in a coma after 10 minutes, and Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, who inexplicably makes a cameo as a paralysed zombie – is given nothing to work with.
But most of these problems can be excused, or at least, explained away – as with most of life’s troubles, the blame can squarely be laid on greed: Of actors, of filmmakers, of the studio, and of the audience. Yep, you’re not off the hook. What cannot be excused, however – considering especially the money that went into making this movie, and the sheer amount of talent involved – is that for most of its often unbearable length, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is excruciatingly boring.
Now, I realise calling a film boring is the most boring thing I can say about it. But nothing about this film could inspire serious discussion – not even its ah-I-see-what-you-did-there ending, which involves the arrest and impeachment of a tragically stupid President, telecast, of all places, on Fox News. Everything about Kingsman 2 screams cash grab. It’s the textbook definition of a rushed sequel meant to capitalise on the success of the first film – which was, in comparison to this, damn near a masterpiece.
Just this year, we’ve seen three excellent examples – John Wick: Chapter 2, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, and Annabelle: Creation were all good films in their own way. Observed from a distance, and from under the lull of popcorn, it would seem as if all three movies followed the sequel code closely – that is, understand what fans liked about the first one, and ramp it all up to 11. So why in the name of resurrected Colin Firth did Kingsman – a film that, for all its talk about paving your own way in life, plays it as safe as buttered toast at breakfast, checking every box on the list – choose the path of least resistance?
Take one look at its basic plot, and you’ll have the answer. It’s essentially a louder, (mind-numbingly) longer, and infinitely more ludicrous carbon copy of the first film – with more characters, more plot twists, more cussing, more violence, and more everything to convince you that this is exactly what you want. Like its story, which takes Eggsy to America, Kingsman 2 exchanges the self-deprecating Britishness of the first film for the very American ‘size matters’ philosophy of life.
And as always, in a rather sorry trend, for redemption we must turn to the action – which is usually where most of the attention in these films goes. Kingsman 2 is no different. Like everything else about it, the action too has been scaled up considerably. “You liked the church massacre scene from the first film?!” director Matthew Vaughn seems to be asking of no one in particular. “Well, take FIVE more scenes just like it.” Admittedly, each of those scenes is masterfully done, shot in that trademark hyperactive style Vaughn has appropriated from his old chum, Guy Ritchie.
The best of the lot comes towards the end, and involves a gun that looks like a briefcase, a shield that looks like an umbrella, grenades that look like baseballs, robot dogs and waitresses, and a very, very angry Elton John, in full peacock vestment.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t a film Matthew Vaughn had in him. It’s a film that was squeezed out of him, perhaps as leverage for something he has real passion for. It’s his weakest one, by far – his best, in my unconventional opinion, is his other, more minor Mark Millar comic adaptation, Kick-Ass. There’s none of the exuberance, none of the tongue-in-cheek wit, and none of the subversive charm one associates with a Matthew Vaughn film to be seen here. Were Kingsman a more established property, fandom would be picketing Twitter and calling for boycotts by now.
Watch a trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle here