Guest review by: Callum The Critic
You can check his film blog here
Okay, I will admit this right now: while I don’t hate the film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, it is not exactly a film I rate as highly as everyone else does. Don’t get me wrong, it is a perfectly watchable and entertaining action spy film that distinct itself from other action spy film franchises likes the modern Daniel Craig James Bond, Bourne or Mission: Impossible, but the film hasn’t really aged well for me through time as I have noticed some certain thematic issues (that I will get into later in this review) that prevent from calling it “the best action spy film of 2015”, especially considering the fact that the film came out the same year as much better action spy films like “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” or “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. So does the sequel fare any better for me? Find out in this non-spoiler review for “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”:
Before I properly discuss about this film, let be quickly talk about the first film in order to provide some context and comparison for this film. Some have asked me in regards to my comment to why the film “Kingsman: The Secret Service” hasn’t aged well for me. While I don’t exactly hate the film per say (like I’ve said before), my biggest issue with it is that I feel like it’s a film that really doesn’t know what it’s intend truly was as the kind of story it wanted to tell. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a film that started out as a potentially fun and unique story on class structures as well as being a love letter to the Moore era of Bond, which I would have been perfectly fine with since Roger Moore was the Bond I grew up with. But midway through the film suddenly switches gears and acts like it is the Cabin in the Woods of action spy films or the James Bond type of story (and no I am not drawing straws with this, I have seen some critics, reviewers and friends on Facebook make a similar claim before) and that interpretation (or intend on the films part due to how transcriptive some of the so called “deconstructive” dialogue was from Samuel L. Jackson’s character) simply doesn’t hold up for me having just watched the film again because in the end becomes the typical campy action spy film it is meant to be deconstructing. Do you want to watch a film that does deconstruct the action spy franchise, but is actually consistent with such a theme? Then I say go and watch “Casino Royale” again (and I did and it is still awesome). In a way the first film is very similar to how I view the Roger Moore James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun” as that film also had a fairly strong and interesting thematic first half, but comes the second half all those ideas eventually disappear into pretty cliché grounds that we have already seen from a Bond film.
Now onto “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” which is a very tough film for me to talk about because as I have discussed with my mate Adam who I saw the film with, we both found the film to be a pretty fun time all around as the two of us had plenty of laughs while watching the flick. However the two of us also agreed that the film has some huge and undeniable problems that prevent it from being a truly great sequel or standalone film in its own right, so if I was to continue with my comparison to other Roger Moore Bond films, then this film is very similar to “A View to a Kill” as I am one of the few people who doesn’t hate that film (in spite of its own glaring issues) because of its sheers entertainment value. While I appreciate this film for trying to tackle in regards to the rather on-the-nose approach to the War on Drugs idea and why such a debate is pretty hypocritical and the craziness ones would get to in order to “win” such a war, these themes ultimately get bogged down by a story that felt more concerned with doubling down on both its action sequences and world-building rather than go the “Empire Strikes Back” or what “Skyfall” is to “Casino Royale” and really further deconstruct or explore the characters we’ve got to know from the first film. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” does the typical sequel fumble in trying to do more of what you liked about the first, but ends up being overstuffed and over-indulgent.
These issues create the a somewhat further problem as far as the films attempts at character development with the fact that the film just has far too many characters and storylines fighting for attention that the film doesn’t really anchor itself in the way that the original’s chav-to-spy transformation did, and ends up wasting many members of its cast; the Statesman, in particular, end up getting the short shrift, with Bridges and Tatum being sidelined for most of the film. That’s not to say that the charm of the original doesn’t surface. There’s enough here to like if you’re a fan of the first, but this Kingsman needs to learn some discipline in regards to what you should and should not include in a sequel. I know this comparison gets thrown out a lot, but the whole concept of bringing back Harry Hart feels like a cheap and uncreative mood on the writers’ part (and no that is not a spoiler because it was in the fucking trailers) is very similar to the idea of bringing back Agent Kay for “Men in Black 2”. While bringing back Harry is nowhere near as bad as bringing back Agent Kay because it doesn’t undermine a very compelling character arc, I do however think bringing back Harry does somewhat undercut an already underdeveloped thematic point of the first film when Samuel L. Jackson spells out the idea to Harry in which he said “This isn’t your typical spy film” before shooting him in the head because now it means that at this point they can bring anybody back, thus the meaning in the sacrifice of being a spy would mean nothing. Credit where credit is due, Firth tries. Firth really fucking tries to do something with a character that has no right to be in the movie to begin with. Unfortunately, his character all but halts the film progression and it’s not warranted and it’s not earned. I also was a little underwhelmed with Julianne Moore as the villain Poppy (An actress with a similar name to my own mother playing a character with the same name as my dog? I swear I have nothing to do with the production of this film). While in a way I do kind of see her point in terms of her villain goals and she was a lot of fun to watch in a very twisted sort of way (I will never look at burgers the same way again), her motivations, lack of screentime and even how she goes about her plan comes off as either under-written or very convoluted at times to the point where her parts of the films really comes off like first drafts in a rushed script. That being said, I did like what was done with the character of Merlin and Mark Strong really does give it his all in perhaps is most unique performance that he has ever played in his career and the moment he walks into the room with a suit, I’ve said the following to my friend: “Take away his glasses and he could have been the perfect Lex Luthor”.
While the doubling down on the action scenes and jokes does open to a lot of the problems to the films character and themes to a certain degree similar to say the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”, that doesn’t mean the action or the jokes on their own out of context merits are somewhat enjoyable. The action scenes within the Kingsman is another key part that makes it stand out to other action spy films with its very self-aware over the top, cartoonish and gory nature, in a way it is pretty much how the Roger Moore Bond films that it is homaging would end up looking like with today’s modern filmmaking technology. Whereas other well beloved action spy films have different approaches to their action like the action in the Daniel Craig Bond films have a very back to basics sort of approach to its action with them more focused on practical stunt work like the action films of yesteryear or the more kinetic shaky cam approach of the Bourne series or with the case of most of the “Mission: Impossible” films a good mix of aspects of both James Bond and Kingsman type of action scenes. While yes, the action in these films does have some pretty obvious CGI (similar to say “Die Another Day”), unlike most films whose action scenes have this problem it mostly works in the favour of “Kingsman” due to its lack of self-seriousness and self-awareness that it is pretty much a live action cartoon. As for the jokes in the film, this is perhaps the most subjective part of the film for obvious reasons when it comes to comedy, but while the jokes of the film really do not have a satirical edge that the likes of “Hot Fuzz” does when it comes to its parody of buddy cop action films, the jokes and gags in this film do have enough wit and good sense of comedic timing that almost helped me look pass some of its glaring issues to the point in which I am more than willing to watch this film again on DVD for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is an enjoyable film that I didn’t regret watching it, but its attempts at juggling too many characters and plot points ultimately didn’t work in the films favour because of the rushed nature of it all.
My score for “Kingsman: “The Golden Circle” would be a score of 3 Kingsman logos to resemble the films overall okay quality out of 5.