Suited And Booted
A year after the events in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy is operating under his former mentor’s codename, Galahad and continues to covertly protect the realm. Before the film has even has a chance to fade out the film’s title, events kick off with the arrival of Charlie Hesketh – a former Kingsman initiate who failed to graduate – who survived the events of the first film and is out for revenge against Eggsy [Egerton] for a new superior: Poppy Adams [Moore], a drug baroness in self-imposed exile from her home land of the United States. Feeling the Kingsman are a direct threat to her operation, Poppy launches a surprise attack and wipes out the entire order and all of their hideouts. The only ones who survive are Strong and Merlin [Strong], who enact an old protocol which takes them to a mysterious agency in Kentucky.
Much like its predecessor, any criticisms one has about these films can easily be directed to any James Bond feature; from the sexism to the suspension of disbelief, if you let one slide but not the other, that seems a touch unreasonable. Having said that, this film really does let itself down all too frequently and what should have been another action-packed, tongue-in-cheek romp is left a bloated, uninspired pile of mediocrity. The acting tiers are separated rather clearly between those that have committed to the heightened absurdity of the story (people like Egerton, Pascal, Strong and to a certain extent Jeff Bridges) and those who are largely phoning it in (which would be Firth, Moore, Halle Berry, etc). Essentially, the more established they are, the less they seemed to give a shit. But it’s hard to blame them as the script this time round misses the mark by offering a lukewarm villain, a fairly tame world-threatening dilemma and a complete lack of suspense or pacing. From the introduction of underutilised characters to the deaths of returning ones (I was genuinely expecting Roxy to make a surprise appearance as the film went on but then I realised they just killed her off outright) the whole thing felt eerily reminiscent of GI Joe: Retaliation – I know I’ve received a lot of flak for my positive review of GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra in the past but the change in tone from silly toy box action to semi-serious vengeance arc was incredibly odd; at least Kingsman: The Golden Circle had the common sense not to kill off the main character.
Aside from the regular super-spy lampooning, there are a few elements that take this film far away from what made Kingsman: The Secret Service a tolerable success, rather than the colourful stupid mess that it advertised itself as. The first and strangest one is the return of Harry. Bringing back Colin Firth was a decent move and offered a genuine emotional device for Eggsy, they also managed to explain it away rather well thanks to the fantastical sci-fi tech their established universe could arguably have. No problem there. The weird element is that they address how such an extreme and violent cognitive experience could have a severe impact on the victim; specifically in this case, memory loss which then leads into PTSD. Adding that level of realism (if that’s the right word) should work for this film, grounding it in some semblance of reality and offering Firth an actual reason to come back and play the same character with a deeper spin. Regrettably, it never exactly clicks and ends up feeling like a drastic tonal shift which fails to achieve the desired effect. Then we have the Statesman. I’m a little torn when it comes to the American sister-operation as it feels extremely underused but to be fair this is a Kingsman sequel so the restraint is appreciated.
Speaking of restraint, we need to talk about Elton John. In her Cambodian lair, Poppy has turned an ancient ruin into her own slice of America and with it a theatre with one hostage performer: Elton John. As a throwaway gag, that in of itself works fine. What doesn’t is that this cameo massively overplays its hand and brings him back multiple times. More than that, Elton John is effectively a supporting character. I would go so far as to posit that he has more screen time than Halle Berry or Channing Tatum. Having said that, for one bright glorious moment, it works perfectly: one of Poppy’s robotic security dogs is about to attack Harry but Elton John’s grinning mug enters from screen right to the tune of Rocket Man. It really shouldn’t be funny but it really is. Everything around it is horse-piss but that one shot was great.
In spite of the wildly erratic acting standards (between phoning-it-in and trying pretty hard) and the paint-by-numbers story, this film is pretty serviceable on a technical level. There’s plenty of the same comic book action/physics/direction which gives the film a certain flare and style but admittedly, it might be a little excessive and the film becomes heavily reliant on it at times without ever replicating the Church scene from the first one. Which, let’s face it, is what everyone involved was hoping to recreate. The visual effects were decent enough but when they dipped into displeasing territory, they were incredibly noticeable and off-putting. Equally, the sound design was perfectly fitting and Henry Jackman’s score still stands out as praiseworthy, memorable and distinctive.
Like a lot of flat sequels, this feature feels like a missed opportunity, an exercise in repetition that failed to capture whatever spark that made the original special. If you’re a fan of the first, it may play off as a passable story but on its own merit, it’s hardly making waves.
22nd September 2017
The Scene To Look Out For:
There are both a few scenes that stand out because they are one improvement away from being great, a few scenes that don’t exactly work and a few that are genuinely really entertaining. I’m not going to talk about any of them because the only talking point in this film is the fingering scene. In order to trace Charlie’s location, Eggsy has to place a tracker on Charlie’s girlfriend. Apparently the only way to get the device to activate is to make contact with a mucus membrane. Now, I appreciate this whole scenario is supposed to address the whole “I have to sleep with this woman for king and country” nonsense but it’s still pretty stupid. It’s hardly new, in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me a tracer is placed up Fat Bastard’s arse but there’s something about the way this is filmed which feels like it’s primary objective was to be as titillating and shocking as possible. Now, as an adult, I was far from shocked. I’ve seen all manner of films which present sexual encounters in many different ways but it’s so uncomfortably bad that it just feels cheap and unnecessary; which, in a film with cannibalism, excessive swearing and an anal callback by Elton John, is saying something.
Without saying too much, I liked Pascal’s character, Whiskey. The character motivation was commendable but I can’t highlight the performance as it never really paid off or delivered in a satisfying way. Subsequently I have to go with my regular choice Mark Strong. I really like Strong as an actor, I think he’s wonderful and very rarely disappoints. Funny, witty and great timing; all of which makes his “arc” even more frustrating.
“My momma always told me we get our manners from the British. Ain’t that a pity, y’all didn’t keep none for yourselves”
In A Few Words:
“A disappointing departure from a surprise success, which could easily be fixed in a further sequel but the question is, should it be?”