Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), Review

There isn’t much that’s golden to the new Kingsman sequel. Matthew Vaughn’s follow-up to the witty, urbane and explosively vibrant original comes short of its predecessor in plot, character and humour.

‘Eggsy’, acted with versatility and confidence by Taron Egerton, is back. His next world-touring, spy-spoofing galavant sees the young agent turn to Kingsman’s American cousins, the lasso-skipping ‘Statesmen’, after the near-annihilation of the British-based agency. A global threat is posed by ‘Poppy’ (Julianne Moore) who holds the lives of millions medically hostage as her drug cartel lobbies for the legalisation of drugs. The real villain, however, is the American strong-man-president who doesn’t play along, preferring to twiddle his thumbs and expunge from the world drug usage and supply in one go. To the rescue, of course, are the ‘independent intelligence agencies’ of Kingsman and Statesman.

The plot, unfortunately, seems like something filched from Doctor Who. But it's not a Moffat. It's a lot worse. Eked out over two and a half hours, episodic brevity as found on the BBC is sacrificed for a full-length-feature-ful of bad writing.

Unlike Doctor Who, where at least the technological advancements of aliens substantiate the impossible, we can’t quite get behind this one. Robotic dogs; boring, multi-[repeatedly]handy biometric-hacking watches; GPS-installed condoms. All this gagetic ridiculousness takes Kingsman to the line of credibility and then past it.

Yes indeed, at one point, the audience is subjected to a highly extended (and graphic) scene in which Eggsy must implant a GPS-tracking device (attached to a finger-sized condom) in a girl, by seducing and fingering her at Glastonbury Festival.

The plot is fat. Particularly fat in exposition. But also, and thankfully, richly paunchy in scenery and location. Geolocatively, the film is, visually, stunning. From Poppy’s hide-away (a 60s American-styled hide-out in Cambodia, complete with Diner, Salon and a captive Elton John) to the rich royal dining rooms of the Swedish monarchy, the film is, like its predecessor, a feast for the eyes. This is matched in the costumes and superbly choreographed action scenes that last throughout the film. That Kingsman trademark, of incongruous soundtrack and combat matching is gloriously re-realised in the final showdown during which Elton provides a typically lavish (and dated) bande sonore.

What the film really lacks are strong female roles. Rather, the film actively appears to handicap its few actresses. Roxy, who some might remember floating passively up to space during the climax of the first Kingsman film, is killed early on. The few that remain include Eggy’s Swedish, royal, stay-at-home girlfriend, the festival-fingered Glastonbury girl, a weak, later-paralysed, presidential aide, ‘Ginger’ (Merlin’s American counterpart) and ‘Poppy’ herself, the unbelievable drugs baron. Boringly, Julianne Moore is here written the part of a psychopathic, patty-cooking, sweet-smiling, 60s mum.

Inexplicably Poppy rises to acquire a monopoly over the global drugs trade. Any convincing backstory to this dastardly feat of intelligence is omitted. House-bound throughout the lengthy film, no screen-time is set aside for character embellishment to rival that given to Samuel L. Jackson’s villain in the first film.

The filmmakers, media and viewers ought to be more shocked by this gender imbalance: the spy genre and its manifestation here as a whisky-drinking, suit-wearing frolic shouldn’t forget the 21st century when it comes knocking.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was premiered on 18th September 2017 and released around the UK on 20th September. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Produced by Matthew Vaughn, David Reid & Adam Bohling.

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