Kingsmen agents unite with their American counterparts to stop a drug monopoly
If you enjoyed the first Kingsman movie, likely you will this one as well. If like myself you found it to be a spy film beset by a nauseating combination of cameo, bad sex jokes and hyperbolic, cartoonish plot, The Golden Circle is not going to change your mind.
Poppy (Julianne Moore) has transformed undiscovered ruins in Cambodia into a land of kitsch 50s Americana, from where she controls the world’s recreational drug supply. She has spiked said drug supply so as to hold the world leader’s to ransom, either legalizing all drugs or letting millions of their citizens die. All of the Kingsman secret agents have been wiped out aside from the main cast of the first film, meaning they have to team up with their American cousins to eliminate this threat.
If a world under threat from some all encompassing power that causes people to act erratically sounds familiar, that’s because the central plot of The Golden Circle is identical to the first film. This time as well as underwriting the British working class, there is also ample opportunity to make broad stereotypes of Kentucky natives too.
The use of music in film can be a joy, Tarantino going so far as to say it’s ‘just about as cinematic a thing as you can do. You are really doing what movies do better than any other art form; it really works in this visceral, emotional, cinematic way that’s just really special’. Writer-director Matthew Vaughn prostitutes this great cinematic virtue, over-using from the first time Eggsy (Taron Egerton) kicks the radio mid-fight to Merlin (Mark Strong) singing John Denver. It’s all so painfully obvious and dull, the kid who attempts to be funny by talking over everyone all the time.
If the music is cloyingly over-done it’s only one part of the interminable fight sequences. With heroes surviving headshots all this running around is little more than a slideshow for different places in the world. As the film reaches its climax the only event of note is the nauseating inevitability that Elton John’s strained cameo will play some part.
There’s also a reason no film with a phonebook of stars can be considered a classic after Grand Hotel. With only a few minutes to introduce themselves and engage in some sort of subplot, it all feels like a waste. In The Golden Circle it’s hard to think who is more underwhelming, Academy Award Winner Halle Berry or Channing Tatum, who is removed from proceedings just as he is introduced. At least Pedro Pascal fully inhabits his juvenile surrounds, and Mark Strong is an engaging screen presence with a little smidgen of character to work off.
A low-point of the first Kingsman was Samuel L. Jackson’s screechy turn as the big bad. Julianne Moore as sociopath-come-housewife may be as obvious an irony as calling a drug lord Poppy, but she certainly doesn’t grate (or mince) in the same way as her predecessor. The strange joy taken in churchgoers being massacred or heads exploding like fireworks found in the original is also passed over.
The script’s nonsensical nature, co-written with Jane Goldman, varies from the minute (Eggsy can’t drink with his friends because he’s going to his girlfriend’s parents the next night) to the terminal (the antidote to the spiked drugs is destroyed and rediscovered over and over). As for any wider message in The Golden Circle, the Machiavellian intelligence of the President prevents any allegorical comparisons, and the anti-drug message is about as convincing as Reefer Madness.
A final gripe comes with the trailer, giving away plot points that don’t turn up until an hour into the film. What’s the point of making Colin Firth’s return a surprise if he’s featured so prominently in the marketing?
Onwards to the third film, which I suspect will be essentially the same film again.