Tuesday 19 November 2019

Film of the week: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Cert 16; Now showing

Taron Egerton and Colin Firth star in the tounge-in-cheek spy movie
Taron Egerton and Colin Firth star in the tounge-in-cheek spy movie

Taking Taron Egerton out of the equation, the average age of the main characters in this second Kingsman film is just over 50.

And they kick ass. This in itself is a lot to like in Matthew Vaughn's semi-spoof spy movie. It is also a symptom of its genre-bending tone. High energy from the outset, it carries that energy through but does fall victim to being too damn long.

A year has passed since the events of the first film in which Eggsy's (Egerton) mentor Harry (Colin Firth) was killed by lisping villain Samuel L Jackson. Now Eggsy is the new agent code-named Galahad, one of the NGO English agents who operated under the cover of Kingsman tailors. The Kingsman version of Englishness is a world away from Eggsy's council estate version, but he has adapted to their ways while remaining true to his roots.

The film opens with an attack by old nemesis Charlie (Edward Holcroft), now working for drug baroness Poppy (Julianne Moore) and her Golden Circle who are holding the world to ransom. Kingsman is damaged in the attack leaving only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) to fight this new enemy. They find help in the US agency Statesman, where Channing Tatum and Halle Berry answer to Jeff Bridges.

The action pieces are cartoony and fabulous, there's lots of swearing and humour (this is the work of Vaughn and Jane Goldman who did Kickass). The stakes never feel that high, it turns out that the dead are not all dead and though Eggsy is emotional for a superspy, it's not a film to get involved in. It's a far-fetched, fun, loud, cameo-rich spectacle. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Also showing

Maze Cert: 15A; Now showing

Barry Ward and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in Maze

On a superficial level, Maze can be thanked for bringing together on one screen the considerable Irish acting troika of Barry Ward, Martin McCann and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

It remains to be seen how far the film travels in terms of foreign territories, but wherever it ends up, it will make something of a statement about the rising talent at our disposal on this island.

It helps that this drama about the notorious Ulster prison break of 1983 plays to the cast's strengths.

Writer-director Stephen Burke is a novelist in his spare time and knows how to slowly but momentously move a yarn forwards, simultaneously building towards a thrilling tipping point while also understanding the sensitivities involved in such recent and divisive history.

Bringing some of that insidious Nidge cunning to every movement and eye twitch, Vaughan-Lawlor plays Larry Marley, chief schemer in H7, one "H block" of the famously escape-proof Lisburn penitentiary.

There are simmering tensions within the block itself as the IRA look to refuel following the death of Bobby Sands.

Marley makes it his business to orchestrate a breakout. Central to his plans is Ward's gruff and suspicious prison guard, whom Larry cosies up to after volunteering for janitorial work. It is only human error, you see, that will create any hole in this fortress's perimeter.

Let the games begin. ★★★★ Hilary A White

Borg/McEnroe Cert: 15A; Now showing

LaBoeuf and Gudnason in Borg/McEnroe

I'm old enough to remember the rivalry between two of tennis's great players, but not quite old enough to remember the match that this Swedish (half- subtitled, half in English) film builds towards. Bjorn Borg was going for a record-breaking fifth Wimbledon title, and the only perceived obstacle was American newcomer John McEnroe. Director Janus Metz Pedersen's film of Ronnie Sandahl's script, makes it clear that there were obstacles in Borg's head too.

It's 1980 and Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) is at the height of his fame. Handsome, rich and renowned for his almost robotically cool head, he is at home in Monaco with fiancee Mariana (Tuva Novotny), carefully preparing for Wimbledon. McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) seems almost the polar opposite because he is more famous for his temper than his tennis, a reputation only heightened in the run-up to the competition.

Each of the men's backstories is told in a series of flashbacks that paint a picture not of opposites but of very similar characters, the difference being in how they channelled their feelings. Borg's secret was his trainer Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgard). The Swede's story is told in more detail, perhaps inevitably, but the character building is not the film's strong point. Where it is excellent, however, is in the final match which has both suspense and humanity. It's a great story, extremely watchable and the performances are great. Make sure to stay for the final credits. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Sunday Independent

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