Circle entertains despite length
There’s a lot to like about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Matthew Vaughn’s follow-up to his surprise hit from three years ago. There’s almost as much not to like as well. Actually, there’s a lot of a lot of stuff in this movie, as Vaughn seems intent on stuffing 10 pounds of visual mayhem and plot into a five-pound bag, not caring (perhaps hoping?) that it might split apart to spill over his audience. The very definition of the “too-much-is-not-enough” approach, this is the rare example where this method is actually a perfect compliment to the material.
Wasting little time, the film opens with an elaborate car chase in which the rookie from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), finds himself doing battle with a bitter old colleague (Edward Holcroft) who’s working for Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a perpetually gleeful drug runner who’s managed to create a global drug network from her lair in the wilds of Cambodia. With the information her lackey obtains, she’s able to blow each of the Kingsman’ outposts off the map. The only agents left standing are Eggsy and weapons guru Merlin (Mark Strong), who quickly regroup and find that an organization much like theirs exists in America. They head to Kentucky and infiltrate the massive distillery/headquarters of the Statesman, where they meet agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), their leader Champ(agne) (Jeff Bridges) and other beverage-monikered spies. They also find their mentor (presumed dead, now suffering from amnesia), Harry Hart (Colin Firth), under their care in a padded cell.
The ultimate mission – to take out Poppy, who’s holding the world ransom due to a toxin she’s put in the drugs she peddles – may be the end game, but there’s more than a few tangents screenwriters Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman take us down. A subplot involving Eggsy’s fiancée, Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), at least two red herring minor missions and various other expository scenes in which we learn about the myriad of new characters, is just so much narrative fat that should be trimmed.
Yet each and every moment is executed with tongue firmly in cheek, and the game cast sells it. The prim, unruffled approach of the British cast members amidst the chaos that swirls about them is a surefire bet for laughs, as is the contrast between them and the good ol’ Kentucky agents. There’s no shortage of humor – some of it very dark – particularly from, of all people, Elton John, playing himself, having been kidnapped by Poppy for private concerts. Moore herself is a hoot, assuming a deceptively warm approach of the mom from next door who just happens to be the head of a drug cartel, while Bruce Greenwood as the President of the United States, who comes off as an extreme version of Bush II, makes the most of his moments.
As for the bread-and-butter of this film, the action is manic and at times hard to follow, nothing new for movies of this sort from our era. A great many computer-generated effects are used to pull off the impossible antics and it all comes off seamlessly. However, they, like the movie’s third act, run too long, first exhilarating viewers, only to ultimately exhaust them. This is, unfortunately, the style of the day, as modern filmmakers are unfamiliar with the power of brevity.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle will likely be a hit, and 20th Century-Fox is confident as well, as a third entry has already been announced. And despite my objections to the film, there’s no denying I had a good time, though I suspect I might not have the same reaction for the next sequel if Vaughn continues with his “more is more” approach. As any English gentleman knows, it’s rude to overstay your welcome.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.