Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Film review #361
Director: Matthew Vaughn
SYNOPSIS: When an attack on the secret agency Kingsman leaves the entire organisation in ruins and agent Galahad (Eggsy) and Merlin as the only survivors, they enact the doomsday protocol and head out to Kentucky to seek out assistance. They discover the Statesmen, a secret agency like their own, and the two must join forces to stop a mysterious organisation known as the “Golden Circle”, which is holding the world hostage by infecting drugs with a disease that can only be cured with the antidote being held by them…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a 2017 spy film and the sequel to the 2014 Kingsman film. The film starts off re-introducing Eggsy, the protagonist of the first film, and throwing him straight into an action sequence involving a high speed fight scene through the streets of London. It is a strong start that delivers precisely what you would expect from the film, as well as setting up the plot of the rest of the film. Everything changes however, when an attack targeting all of the Kingsman agents and assets leaves the entire agency wiped with Eggsy and intelligence asset Merlin as the only survivors. The film starts off re-introducing all the familiar concepts and characters, and to destroy them all in the blink of an eye certainly raises the stakes, but in doing so leaves no room for the agency to develop or for us to learn more about it. The plot on the whole is fairly straightforward and follows the typical structure of a spy film, but blends in some contemporary twists and comedy as did its predecessor to freshen up the genre. Unfortunately, the problems that the first film had still persists in the sequel: namely the inconsistency of tone and a wayward idea of what the film wants to be. Whether a serious spy film, a spoof of said films, or something else, it oscillates between these objectives and as a result feels a little disjointed. However, I think it improves on these issues compared to its predecessor, and the more over-the-top characters and story help reinforce the notion that the film is essentially a bit of not-so-serious entertainment.
After Kingsman is essentially wiped out, Merlin and Galahad/Eggsy learn that the agency’s “doomsday protocol” involves an American whiskey brewer in some way. They travel out to Kentucky where they find it is the home of the “Statesmen”: the U.S. equivalent of Kingsman, They agree to work together to find who was behind the attack; a group calling themselves the “Golden Circle.” But that’s not all. It turns out they also rescued Harry, the Kingsman agent who was shot and seemingly killed in the first film. However, he has lost his memory, and part of the film revolves around trying to reclaim it. There’s actually quite a lot of story going on in The Golden Circle, and it equates to a film with a runtime of nearly two and a half hours. I think this could have been reduced to make it run a bit more smoothly, as there a lot of elements that aren’t too necessary for the story. The new characters barely make any impact on the film, and as the film’s aim is to expand the world with this new agency, this failure is rather significant. On the other hand, there’s some good roles for the villains, and the bizarre role that Elton John has helps spice things up a little.
The Golden Circle retains the style of the original in terms of the action sequences, with the over-the-top and entertaining fights and chases that not only are in keeping with the original, but make them even more ambitious and over-the-top. The original had this element of a normal young man being brought into this extraordinary world and all the conflicts that arose from it, whereas this sequel starts off in the latter and never really comes down from it, creating a different feeling. In fact, the film builds on this and makes things even more over-the-top, introducing robot guards and dogs for the agents to fight. The effects however, are pretty consistent, and give the visuals a definite flair and impact that compliment the excessive and silly setups without them looking cheap or tacky. Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle keeps the mix of comedy and action that made the first film successful, while also doubling down on the more over-the-top elements. The returning characters and ideas are worked through more thoroughly quite well, but the new characters and elements are often overshadowed and play an ever-diminishing role. It still suffers from an inconsistent tone with regards to what it is aiming to be, but makes some strides to improve on it. It’s more silly action and entertainment, with an occasional and clever swipe at American culture that all adds up to another worthwhile bit of entertainment.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Film review #360
Director: Matthew Vaughn
SYNOPSIS: When Eggsy, a troubled young man ends up in trouble with the police and practically everyone else, he calls a number that was given to him when his Father died if he was ever in trouble. This leads to him being released and meeting Harry Hart, a seemingly refined and upper-class gentleman. However, it turns out Harry is part of a secret agency called the Kingsman, which Eggsy’s Father was also a part of, which fights crime and preserves world peace. Harry chooses Eggsy as a candidate to join the Kingsman, but he must undergo a series of trials to prove he is worthy, and meanwhile a rich tycoon is plotting a global catastrophe that the agency must try to stop before it is too late…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2014 spy film about a secret service that independently preserves world peace. The film starts off (after a brief introduction scene set twenty years prior) introducing Eggsy, a young man who has had a troubled upbringing, having lost his Father at a young age and his Mother being in a relationship with a local mobster. Eggsy gets into trouble after stealing a car and ramming it into a police car to allow his friends to escape. When at the police station, he uses his one phone call to call a number on the back of a medal awarded to his Father when he died, which allowed him “one favour”. Eggsy walks out of the police station and is approached by Harry Hart, who got him released, and Eggsy learns that he is part of a secret service, like his Father, which helps to preserve world peace. Following the death of one of their agents, Harry nominates Eggsy as a candidate to replace him, and he begins his training to become a spy and a gentleman. The plot follows a recognisable story of an outcast who is taken into the high life and brings his own unique character into situations where it is not normally encountered, and where people discriminate against him for it. It is a story that has been told many times in cinematic history, and honestly is one that needs to be re-told: a similar story from the eighties featuring a young person in the same role is not going to have the same impact as Eggsy, as both face different problems respective to the times in which they grow up. There are a lot of similarities too, of course, but the key lies in the lead being relatable, and facing distinct, recognisable obstacles for them to overcome. With this in mind, Kingsman executes this story for the time it was made very well, and makes Eggsy a unique character that is a product of his time, and identifiable with the target audience. Sure, because of this the plot is a little predictable, but being a spy film it still finds a way to throw in enough twists, double-crosses, and surprises to make it gripping and entertaining. This is also important because as part of the comedy/spoof style of the film, it requires the viewer to be familiar with the tropes in order to play with and subvert them.
Another of Kingsman’s strengths is in it’s casting. Featuring a host of recognisable British actors gives the characters a certain powerful aura, which contrasts nicely to the relatively unknown Eggsy. Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Hamil round off the cast to give it an even wider recognisable appeal. The characters themselves fit neatly into their specific roles, again in keeping with the plot and the type of story it is telling, so there’s few surprises, but the performances make these characters come to life, and are full of personality. However, there are some surprises too, with the main villain Richmond Valentine (played by Jackson) being a entrepreneur billionaire with a lisp who dresses like Eggsy and who also cannot stand the sight of blood. Sometimes the film plays it straight as a spy film, while at other times it asserts itself more as a comedy or spoof of spy films, and there’s a lot of oscillation between the two that makes the tone of the film feel a little uneven at times. For example, the more comedic moments don’t go well with the gory violence present throughout, and trying to both play the film as a straight spy film and a comedic spoof of one, while also adding in the gory parts creates a confused tone that is never really resolved.
Another positive for the film lies in the action sequences, which, as mentioned, are often hyperviolent and gory, but are fast, fluid and undeniably entertaining, and that’s where the film’s biggest strength lies: it sometimes crosses genres which ends up leaving the film feeling a little muddled in terms of its detail, but it certainly is not boring. Even when the film is going through the motions regarding Eggsy’s incorporation into the unfamiliar world of the Kingsman, there’s enough work being done to set up the characters and setting to make it unique. Overall, while the film suffers from some inconsistency and a sometimes unclear sense of what it wants to be, it is a well executed, entertaining adventure that adds enough fresh content to a familiar story to make it relevant and appealing.