Kingsman: The Golden Circle encapsulates everything that’s wrong with movies, and I don’t say that lightly. Bloated, nonsensical and disgustingly vulgar, it attempts to entertain by way of sheer blunt force. This is a picture that thinks it’s good times because in the opening sequence, two guys try to kill each other in the back of a speeding car while Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” booms on the soundtrack. I fought every urge not walk up and leave when a purported redneck in a Kentucky diner walks up to Colin Firth’s eye-patched character and says, “You look like a faggot looking for an eye fucking.” Still not convinced it blows? Just U wait.
It might as well have been titled Kingsman: Cash Grab. The original Kingsman: The Secret Service was like James Bond on steroids, in which ne’er do well British teen Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) is recruited to join an independent super-secret agency called Kingsman. His dapper mentor (Firth) was (seemingly) killed in the end. Villain Samuel L. Jackson spoke with a weird lisp (don’t ask). Released in February 2015, the comic book adaptation was a sleeper hit but never reached the type of breakout status that leads movie studios to line up a sequel release date six years in advance.
And yet here we are. Like many films plagued with sequelitis, the new installment features more of the same, only BIGGER. More stars (Julianne Moore! Channing Tatum! Halle Berry! Jeff Bridges!), more gratuitous violence, more shiny weapons, way more running time. For extra pop, we get an actual pop star. You know your movie doesn’t work when Elton John sitting at a piano dressed like an overstuffed turkey is the visual highlight. Captain Fantastic, by the way, has more to do onscreen than Tatum and Bridges put together.
Plot is just a trifling detail in most big-budget offerings, so here’s the ultra-rapid rundown: A bad guy destroys the Kingsman headquarters in London. The remaining members (Edgerton and Mark Strong) travel to Kentucky, where they join forces with American counterparts called The Statesman. Together, they unite to try to defeat Poppy (Moore), a bonkers billionaire drug cartel ringleader set on poisoning the masses with her product. I’m still unclear as to the why. The first sign of illness is a fake-looking veiny-blue “rash,” a major oops from the special effect department. Poppy is reminiscent of the female Jack Nicholson incarnation of Joker in the sense that she menaces with a fixed smile. Moore clearly relishes the loopy part. Maybe she’s relieved that she’s not spending the movie stuck behind a computer frantically typing. (That would be poor Berry.)
Director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) constantly repeats his flashy gimmicks, hoping that something will stick. That Prince-scored fight scene didn’t do it for you? Don’t worry. . . three extended shoot-em-ups feature retro Top 40 hits. John Denver gets more airplay here than on the 70s station on SiriusXM. Maybe a dozen people duck gun fire via slow-mo stunts. (Slow-mo choreography must be the most tired device in action flicks.) Two people get sucked through a meat grinder. Many buildings get blown to smithereens. Vaughn even milks every last ounce of that glorified John cameo. He also tries and fails to juggle subplots featuring Eggsy’s royal girlfriend, Firth’s retrograde amnesia, a double agent and a shady POTUS.
The relentless hustle-bustle has an exhausting effect in a film that runs a whopping 141 minutes. He could have cut an hour, easy. I would have started with the shockingly crass scene in which Eggsy meets a gorgeous blonde stranger and immediately jumps into bed with her so he can place some invisible tracking device on his finger, put his hand down her lacy underwear and then stick the device into her vagina. Vaughn shows the device being absorbed into her reproductive system. Seriously.
I don’t know what’s more upsetting — that scene itself, or the fact Vaughn’s screenwriting collaborator, Jane Goldman, is a female. Not every would-be blockbuster has to be Wonder Woman, but I’ll take a golden lasso over a golden circle any day.
(Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens in theaters Friday, September 22)
Also published on Medium.