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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Theatrical Review


20th Century Fox; 141 minutes

Director: Matthew Vaughn


Written by Conor O'Donnell on September 22, 2017 




From approximately minute three, Kingsman: The Golden Circle bolts out of the gate, relentlessly so. Things pick right up on Eggsy (an ever-boring Taron Egerton) as he emerges from the namesake tailor shop in his Sunday best, only to be confronted by ex-Kingsman hopeful Charlie (Edward Holcroft). Before even having a beat to remember who the hell Charlie is, he’s thrust upon viewers — sporting a cartoonish robotic arm — in a taxi chase scene that’s shot so abrasively it reminds you immediately of the proper action directing this franchise lacks. This sequence, among others that follow, is driven by the sheer teenage, video game junkie sensibility that seems inherent in the worse half of Matthew Vaughn’s filmography. At the very least, by throwing it at you from Jump Street, Vaughn has the decency to prepare you for the loud and plastic bullshit he and co-scribe Jane Goldman will be putting you through for the better part of two and a half hours.

The first entry got off on constant takedowns of the James Bond canon, but thumbing your nose at a 24-entry franchise that’s already parodied itself is the lowest of the low-hanging fruits. This isn’t entirely lost on Vaughn and company, who seem to be mining The Secret Service’s vacant entrails for some semblance of a spy film, and injecting it with Mountain Dew Code Red, ecstasy, and meme culture because there’s practically nothing left. What does fill The Golden Circle’s ungodly runtime is a shamefully underused Channing Tatum, a host of actors who are shrugging their way through scenes, and an excruciatingly over-extended Elton John cameo.

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Like its predecessor, the paper-thin plotting at this film’s core tries to beef itself up with a cheeky stunt cast villain. Samuel L. Jackson’s lispy mogul brought some of the scant genuine charm the last film had. Here, Julianne Moore’s drug kingpin Poppy (picture an upper middle class Buzzfeed mom by way of Narcos) is primed to fill that void, and is mostly up to the task. When she’s not annihilating the Kingsman (for reasons that aren’t made entirely clear in her half-baked plan), she’s literally grinding her henchmen into hamburgers, all smiles throughout. One only wishes she commanded more screen time, but instead Elton John overstays his welcome as her pop star hostage, accompanied by two killer robot dogs named Benny and Jet (get it? GET IT?!). In regards to the former, never before have I seen a celebrity cameo that felt engineered for the sole purpose of spawning inevitable Twitter reaction GIFs.

But Moore sells it, despite being saddled with an inane scheme to legalize her drugs; a ploy with no other reason than to give Matthew Vaughn an ill-advised bullhorn commentary on the evils of the war on drugs. He plays his hand here at the more of the same sophomoric finger-wagging he seemed to adore in Kick-Ass and the first Kingsman, all the while begging us to believe his stoner fart of a film has been masquerading as some really savvy think-piece all along. In reality, it amounts to little more than a “Legalize It” bumper sticker.

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Colin Firth and Mark Strong return to their roles on what seems like autopilot. Firth doesn’t do much with his turn as an amnesiac (who excels at drawing butterflies), and Strong’s only noteworthy when prompted to sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” On a related note, the films of 2017 need to find another singer’s catalog to mine. Unfortunately, the collective charms of newcomers Pedro Pascal and Channing Tatum’s Statesmen — or cowboy Kingsman — (codenamed Tequila and Whiskey because fuck this movie) are squandered beneath the pittance of a spy caper that attempts to unfold. Pascal tries to make enough of a case for himself, and succeeds to a point, until he’s thrown under the bus of the film’s needless hairpin machinations.

Anything of note is upstaged by the worse instincts of those behind the camera. Casting off the strengths of its supporting players, the film instead indulges the subreddit-bred infantilism of its director by doubling down on anal sex jokes, and turning spy tradecraft into CG finger-fucking at a music festival. Admittedly, I’m not sure how much is the result of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbon’s source material, but that point is moot. Taken on it’s own merits — or lack thereof – Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels like being trapped in a dorm room, while a bunch of frat bros watch the first Kingsman and tell you it’s the greatest movie ever made.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is now in wide release.


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