Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, in the most literal sense, a movie. By definition, a movie is merely moving pictures. Having sat through all two hours and twenty-one minutes, I can safely assure you the pictures move.
But that’s about all they do. The pictures are gorgeous and shiny, but they convey and stir nothing in us. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a hackneyed, lazy soulless rote enterprise of epic proportions. A movie by bare literal definition only. As a piece of art that can create a dramatic tension of events, juxtapose images, or even make us believe these larger than life two-dimensional characters are real; it fails miserably.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not ‘okay.’ It is bad. It is terrible. It’s the type of film that the farther you get away from it your anger grows like a cancer in your soul.
I would challenge the very notion that there is even a script. Although IMDB credits both Vaughn and Jane Goldman as evidence against my theory. I would not be shocked to discover the actors were given their lines on the backs of envelopes. Such is the insipidness of the dialogue and utter disregard for any form of narrative cohesiveness.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is an elite agent of Kingsman. They are one of those high-class secret service organizations. The kind that invests in missile defense systems that only detect the missiles until it’s too late to do anything about it. So, after all his fellow operatives are killed, except for Merlin (Mark Strong) the two set out to discover who’s behind the massacre.
We know of course who the mastermind is. Poppy (Julianne Moore) a homesick exiled drug czar who lives in the South American jungles. She’s renovated her neck of the woods to resemble 1950’s Americana. Of course, as soon as we meet her and witness her ruthlessly killing off one of her henchmen with a meat grinder we cut back to Eggsy having dinner with his future in-laws. High-class humor ensues.
Tonally Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t have a clue. It wants to be a satire, but it also wants to be big dumb fun, while also trying to gross us out. Take Poppy’s plot. She’s injected a poison into the world’s drug supply, a market she has cornered. Poppy has the antidote, but she will only release it unless the President (Bruce Greenwood) ends the war on drugs.
The President agrees, but not really. He’s going to round up all the junkies and let them die while pretending to end the war on drugs. The idea is fine and had Vaughn and Goldman actually explored it might have been biting timely political commentary. Instead, Poppy’s scheme is one of a dozen other things Eggsy has to deal with.
His girlfriend, Princess Tilde (Hannah Alstrom), is giving him grief. Eggsy called her and asked her permission to sleep with Clara (Poppy Delevingne), in the interest of national security of course. That’s not even mentioning how Eggsy and Merlin have to cope with the amnesiac Harry Hart (Colin Firth).
Apparently their American counterpart The Statesman have had Harry this whole time. Oh and also Poppy blew up all the rest of the Kingsman and also Eggsy’s best friend who was dog sitting for him. I put that to remind you a very basic fact. A fact Kingsman: The Golden Circle could hardly be bothered by this plot point. Eggsy has lost all his co-workers and a friend. But it’s all glossed over for the next dramatic moment and so on and so on.
It’s not that there are dozens of things going on that’s the problem. It’s the fact Vaughn seems to drop one thing to deal with another only to drop it so he can focus on something else. Vaughn can’t keep his focus. The satire, while admittedly, brilliant, comes off as hollow because it’s never really delved into.
At one point Eggsy steps on a landmine. Merlin tricks Eggsy into stepping off and takes his place. He then tells Eggsy and Harry to go on without him. Harry and Merlin share a heart to heart in which he confides his favorite musician is John Denver. Merlin then lures the henchmen over to him by singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” while Eggsy and Harry sing along.
Look you can’t just have a character give us an information dump about his internal life and then reference it seconds later and expect us to care. It works as a joke of contrasts. Merlin a British tech wizard for an uber-secret spy organization loves John Denver. But it fails as anything else.
There are bright spots seem to exist only to taunt us with the idea of a better movie. I quite like Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Ginger (Halle Berry) of The Statesman. Tatum and Berry have an easy charm. They’re not in the movie long enough to be dragged down by the lazy script. Unfortunately for us, they are not in it long enough to make the movie any more enjoyable.
Pedro Pascal as Agent Whiskey damn near walks off with the film entirely. He struts through the movie like a modern-day Burt Reynolds. He has an effortless guile and a charming sideways smile that lights up whatever scene he’s in. Sadly, Pedro being Latino we can all but set our watch at his eventual death/betrayal. We may be in the 21st century, but we are still too close to the 20th century.
At one point Eggsy, Whiskey, Harry, and Merlin, are at a bar. A drunken redneck comes up and calls Harry the “F” word. Of course, a bar brawl ensues. But the brawl ensues because “Manners maketh the man.” They are not fighting because someone uttered a slur; they are fighting because someone uttered a slur at them. Elton John is in this movie; I suspect so that the filmmakers can use him as an excuse for this tasteless scene.
I have nothing against tastelessness; after all I am an avid Mel Brooks fan. But Mel Brooks once replied to someone calling his movie The Producers as ‘vulgar’ with a simple line. “Lady,” he smiled, “it rose below vulgarity.” The problem with Kingsman: The Golden Circle is it doesn’t rise or float. It just sinks to the bottom of the barrel. It’s so lifeless, pointless, and mean. It has no faith in itself or in us.
This is the second movie I have seen this month that has used John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The other was Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky which also has Channing Tatum. If you are a John Denver fan I suggest you skip Kingsman: The Golden Circle and see Logan Lucky instead. If you’re not a John Denver fan, well then there’s just no accounting for taste in some people. Still, that’s no reason to subject yourself to Kingsman: The Golden Circle.