Remember when James Bond was cool? «Martini. Shaken, not stirred» and mad gadgets that defy all sense of practicability, but are a lot of fun on screen. The genre of spy agent thrillers in the spirit of James Bond appears to be dead. Bond films meander, are sometimes better, sometimes worse, but they’re one thing above everything else: They’re interchangeable. If «Spectre» wasn’t a Bond film, another famous Hollywood secret agent could have taken the role. Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne maybe. Doesn’t matter.
The Brits of Kingsman hold against this. They did so in the first part, «Kingsman – The Secret Service», and they continue to be unparalleled in the sequel titled «Kingsman – The Golden Circle». Nobody could replace them. Not Bond, not Bourne, not Reacher. «The Golden Circle» just so happens to be a better Bond film than the current ones. But with more «fuck» in the dialogues, of course. The spies, who operate out of a tailor shop on London’s prestigious Savile Row, need their own thing after all.
The entire world is in danger. Once again. In the first part, it was a media mogul with a lisp – played by Samuel L. Jackson – who wanted to take over the world. In the sequel, it’s Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) who takes the entire planet hostage. Because she’s mad at it. Her job got her exiled from her homeland, the United States, it doesn’t bring her fame and glory even though she earned 250 billion US dollars in profits the previous year and she’s forced to live in an old ruin that she made to look like an American village from the 1970s. Maybe drug trading wasn’t the right career choice for her.
Leads the Kingsman agents in the field: Eggsy aka. Galahad
Opposing her are the agents of Kingsman. Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton) aka. Eggsy aka. Galahad, leads the field. On his side are Merlin (Mark Strong) as a tinkerer and supplier of weapons and gadgets, joined by Roxy (Sophie Cookson) aka. Lancelot who keeps Eggsy up to date with information during missions.
This arrangement works really well. Or it would, if you look past the missiles that have just been fired onto all bases of Kingsman.
You know what made all the Bond films so great? You kindasorta knew what was coming.
While formulaic and not overly creative, this narrative has become a staple of cinema. Not all Bond films adhere to it, but it’s this kind of story that defines the movies. Kingsman pulls a Bond. There’s cursing again, the same story elements are rehashed and very few are newly introduced. Everything that made the first part great is repackaged and reheated, but some new spice is added. This doesn’t only show in the way the movie is shot and crafted, but also in the story.
The fight scenes continue to be the beating heart of this franchise. Thanks to CGI and clever cuts, they appear to be filmed in one take. In the age of shaky cam that often renders fight scenes completely incomprehensible, these seemingly long takes are a welcome change. When Eggsy is beating up the baddies, all actors in the scene have their place relative to the other actors. The scene seems coherent and logical, despite electrified lassos and machine guns in suitcases, blades in Oxford shoes and robot arms.
What is surprisingly toned down, though, is the potty humour. One of the big punchlines of the first part was «Haha, anal sex». This time around, the jokes are more clever and more nuanced, but have lost none of their raunchy nature. «You’re off to save the world? You know what that means when you’re back», says Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) to her dearest Eggsy. Yes, fans of the franchise know exactly what it means. It means the exact same as it meant in the first part. The joke hits its mark. However, when it does get raunchy, the movie suddenly gets serious. Eggsy has to sleep with a woman to save the world. What does his girlfriend, aforementioned princess, say to this? Suddenly, questions of morality and personal ethics and effects on loved ones are raised, if only for this one scene. But that’s more than enough to give the movie a hint of seriousness.
A lot of weird figures share the movie with Eggsy and his life. Poppy Adams is delightfully evil, sans tragic backstory that would redeem her somehow. Her head henchman Charlie (Edward Holcroft) has a robot arm and reminds just ever so slightly of Jaws (Richard Kiel) from the Bond films.
And then there are the agents of Statesman, the independent secret service of the United States and cousins to Kingsman. Just like the agents of Kingsman are extremely British, the agents of Statesman are extremely American. Their weapons of choice are not umbrellas, but lassos. They don’t speak in a posh accent, but have a Southern Drawl of epic proportions. Add to that the typical American gigantomania. It’s almost compulsive that the men and women of Statesman have to be bigger, faster and better than everyone from England. This is their charm. They don’t apologise for who they are, even though they’re just as much a caricature of a culture as the Kingsmen are.
Pretty but pointless in the larger context of the movie: Channing Tatum as Statesman Tequila
The Statesmen also end up being the movie’s biggest weakness. Someone had the glorious idea of adding actor Channing Tatum to the movie and so there had to be plot surrounding his character. It was somewhat clumsily shoehorned into the film. I am convinced Tatum did not share the screen with the rest of the cast very often. In one instance, he’s most certainly been inserted using a green screen. Tatum could have been cut from the movie, making it a whole lot shorter and tighter. A similar fate befalls the scenes with the President of the United States, who has absolutely no impact whatsoever on the plot. However, jokes about the current president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, are in fashion right now, so his part had to be in there.
Of course, this review can’t do without mentioning Elton John. Yes, the Elton John, British singer and nobleman, who has kind of disappeared from pop culture. He basically steals every scene he’s in, playing himself as an impudent kidnappee who can’t go two lines without dropping the word «fuck». Great entertainment.
If you liked the first part, you’ll also like the second part. «Kingsman – The Golden Circle» is a more grown-up movie – both technically as well as from a storyline perspective – but it’s just as much fun as its predecessor.
All images © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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