Kingsman: The Golden Circle (two reviews for the price of one)

What made the first Kingsman so fun was the idea that a secret British spy agency was run out of a Savile Row tailoring shop, with lots of chivalry and good manners being taught to thugs that can become classy killing machines. Casting Colin Firth, who usually plays the stuffy Brit, made it all the better. Since he was killed in the first one, and sequels are never as good, you go in with lower expectations. Yet even with those expectations, I was still disappointed.

A lot of the action scenes, and jokes, felt recycled. Sometimes that worked. For example, the woman in the first movie that promised Eggsy anal sex if he saved her…is used again and provides a very big laugh. Yet 90% of the time, the jokes just didn’t work. Even the “cameo” by Elton John was funny. The first two or three times we see him. After a while, you’re hoping the villain Poppy (Julianne Moore), had kidnapped some other singers. Or that her mechanic dogs (Bennie and Jet) attack him.

Speaking of Julianne Moore…it’s insane to think that this movie has four Oscar winners in its cast (Firth, Halle Berry, and Jeff Bridges being the others).

The Kingsman material is based on a graphic comic that has lots of violence and sarcastic humor, which is what director Matthew Vaughn did with his film Kick-Ass (which I wasn’t a big fan of). He co-wrote this movie, and it seems like he just felt they could go over the top with CGI fight and chase scenes, and have every character drop F-bombs, and we’d just laugh (well, every time Elton John did, the crowd laughed, so perhaps he was right to do so).

The plot is utterly ridiculous, but I’ll try to explain it. Poppy is an international drug dealer, who has a hideaway city in the jungle that has ‘50s flare. There’s a diner, bowling alley, old-style theatre, and robot security dogs because they’re more reliable. She’s hired an ex-Kingsman to kill the group, and she’s also poisoned her drugs, hoping the President will then make drugs legal in order to get her to release an antidote.

Firth, who was killed in the first movie, was actually saved by the Statesman. They’re the Kingsmen of America, that instead of selling suits, deal in booze. That means we get to hear Jeff Bridges doing that voice yet again, and Channing Tatum doing what he just did in Logan Lucky. They even play lots and lots of John Denver songs, which Tatum just did a month ago in Logan Lucky! And in my review for that movie, I said studios needed to give Denver songs a rest. That joke has grown old. At least we got to have a fun joke with an Elton John song.

But back to the plot. The Kingsman organization has basically been wiped out by Poppy, and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his boss Merlin (Mark Strong) start trying to piece things together with the Statesman.

Berry works for the Statesman, and yearns to be out on the field. I yearned for her to have a better haircut.

Tatum, midway through the movie, gets put in a hyperbaric chamber that freezes him. It’s basically the last we see of him, which had my wife asking me, “Who puts Tatum in a movie, and then doesn’t use him in most of it?”

He’s lucky. The audience is going to wish they could’ve been in that sleep chamber instead of watching 2 hours and 15 minutes of this.

At one point, watching the guys go to the Alps to get some bad guys, I thought of all the James Bond movies that had done this so much better. Even the widely panned Moonraker (which I thought was fun), did all this stuff better.

I’m also burned out on stop-motion fight scenes. And, what was with Pedro Pascal (as Agent Whiskey) using Wonder Woman’s lasso? And seeing that Burt Reynolds look alike in a movie with Julianne Moore, just made me think of the terrific Boogie Nights. Seeing Firth and Moore together, made me think of the wonderful A Single Man. In fact, everybody in this just made me think of better movies they’ve done. Hell, even hearing the song “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” made me think of a funnier movie that used that song (Fandango, starring Kevin Costner). And jokes that didn’t work in this movie, made me think of similar jokes that worked in other movies. For example, Eggsy has to implant a tracking device inside of a woman, and he takes her to bed, with the device on his finger. It garnered no laughs, but made me think of how damn funny it was when Seth Rogen had a poisonous device on his hand in The Interview, in an attempt to kill Kim Jong Un. Yet when he has the opportunity to sleep with an attractive woman, he has to do that without that hand touching her. It’s hysterical.

The movie had a couple laughs, and it was a blast watching Firth use his body language to totally inhabit another side of his persona…but overall this was a waste of 2 hours and 15 minutes (the same length of the killer clown movie It).

This reminded me of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. The first movies were so great, it makes it even more disappointing how bad the second ones were. Guardians 2 was serviceable. This movie wasn’t.

It gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.

Now, as luck would have it, I recently met a college student that told me his dream job was to be a movie critic. We’ve spent a week going back and forth with emails about movies, and this guy knows his stuff. I told him to watch this movie and write a review, and I’d post it here. So….without further ado:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle by Asher Luberto

When asked the other day on the protracted success of the Bond films, I questioned the basis of what isolates this auspicious espionage series from so many others. Sure, the riveting action sequences, the resplendent women, and the lofty villains convey what I find to be exuberant cinema that is never stale. However, after a great deal of thinking, it is apparent that the films charm and class is integral to it’s separation from others in the genre. Such class and charm was blended effortlessly with over the top action and sharp British wit in Mathew Vaughn’s 2014’s ‘Kingsman:The Secret Service’. Yet here we get a convoluted mess deprived of the manners that Colin Firth preaches so heavily upon.

Vaginal transferable bugs and human meat grinding machines, one might believe they were viewing the amalgamation between ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Fargo’. Vaughn’s in your face style of direction boasts originality, and is seen throughout the film much like it’s predecessor. So much so in a way, it forgets to establish a coherent story that immerses the audience on the outlandish vivacity on screen. Here, we pickup where we left off. Our charming protagonist who goes by Eggsy is now a vital cog in the Kingsman. The film opens to an expeditiously paced and edited car chase that is brimming with CGI and slow motion affects that would dispend David Lynches belief. Following the near 20 minute extravaganza the secret organization The Golden Circle eliminates all Kingsman headquarters. In hopes of deterring the crazed Julianne Moore from brutally executing all drug users, Eggsy and Harry annex with the Southern Statesman spy agency in aspirations of saving the world, the ones they love, and Elton John.

Every mother has exclaimed to their children that you can have too much of a good thing. Never could I understand the seemingly illogical theory, I would ask myself how can devouring a plethora of apples or oranges in one sitting be bad for the human body? I have found my long awaited answer in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Colin Firth glided from peer to peer with unprecedented grace as he slaughtered an entire cult to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s intoxicating Freebird, a masterwork in choreography. Such jaw dropping scenes were scattered amidst the first installment, yet here we become exhausted from Vaughn’s two and a half hour hyperbolic blood-fest. The editing and pacing can stoop as low as the predictability of it all. CGI is incorporated to give the film it’s cartoon-esque aesthetic, and is blatantly pronounced. Such sequences are juxtaposed to the beat of rythmic classics ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and ‘Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting’,both scenes providing clashes so unorthodox I found myself respecting and enjoying the craft. As for the rest of the film, I was rarely entertained.

My main problem with the film is it’s strenuous length. Scenes like a covert mission at a festival and elongated takes of the villains decidedly 50’s secret lair do not contribute to the story, rather are played for cheap laughs. Julian Moore’s lunacy reminds us of Samuel L Jackson’s depiction of a psychopath hungry for world domination in the first movie. She and new comers Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum are excellent additions to the what is sure to become a prosperous series. All of which are brilliant in their distinct irreverent roles. Yet it’s Taron Egertone and Colin Firth who steal the show  displaying grit and charisma, supplying the little emotional tone that the ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ has to offer.

The second installment to Kingsman joins the likes of countless forgettable action sequels. This one just so happens to be raunchiest of the bunch. Colin Firth famously states “Manners maketh man, do you know what that means, let me teach you a lesson”. If only this film displayed an effort at manner, it could have made it worth the price of admission.

2 and a half stars.