Kingsman: The Golden Circle review: A crude, obnoxious excuse for a spy movie
We need to talk about Elton John. There’s a scene in Kingsman: The Golden Circle’s final third when, after being held captive by Julianne Moore’s cartoon drug baron for what feels like an eternity (don’t ask), our man Elton finally cracks. He does so, while seated at a piano.
He’s supposed to be singing Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, but, um, appears to have changed the lyrics. “Wednesday! Wednesday!” he bellows. The bad guy wonders what’s wrong. “What day is it?” asks Elton. It’s Wednesday. Yep, it’s Elton John gone mad. Somebody actually wrote the words coming out of his mouth. Somebody else approved them.
Somebody else paid for them. What a world.
We should go back to the start. Kingsman: The Secret Service made a fortune back in 2014. You know the deal. It’s based on a comic book. It was a bit of a spy flick; a bit of a spoof. Taron Egerton (a likeable talent, who should know better) was the working-class Lahndan geezer, Eggsy, who joined a secret spy organisation, masquerading as a fancy tailor shop. Or something.
Colin Firth trained him in. Mark Strong provided tech support. Some folks loved it. Me, I found it a nasty, tone-deaf and oddly mean-spirited piece of work. Not cool enough to be Bond. Not slick enough to be Bourne. Not funny enough to be Powers. I did not like it.
The Golden Circle is, in a weird sort of way, fractionally better, in that it doesn’t care for the kind of genre-hopping buffoonery that made its predecessor such an inexplicable mess. Instead, director Matthew Vaughn and writing partner, Jane Goldman, appear to have worked out exactly the kind of film they wanted to make the first time around: a crude, obnoxious spy movie for bored 16-year-olds.
We’ll simplify the story: a suited and booted Eggsy has replaced his late mentor, Harry (Colin Firth, shot in the head in the first one), as Kingsman’s chief ‘gentleman’. He’s enjoying the gig, too. He’s in a happy relationship. He’s got good mates. He’s got a swanky apartment, and a slick wardrobe. A man with a robotic arm (he’s important) tries to kill him in the opening scene, but hey, it’s all part of the job.
It all goes south, however, when Julianne Moore’s aforementioned baron — a ruthless villain whose master plan involves poisoning millions of recreational drug users (no, really) — takes out the entire Kingsman fleet in one fell swoop. So, Eggsy and his right-hand tech man, Merlin (a patient Mark Strong), travel to America so as they can side with the, er, Statesman, Kingsman’s top-secret US counterparts, to take down Julianne. The Statesman lads drink whiskey and wear cowboy hats.
Along the way, Eggsy discovers that Harry is alive and well, and has been keeping company with the Statesman crew. Because, apparently, a bullet through the eye socket doesn’t mean what it used to.
Channing Tatum works for Statesman. He gets a handful of scenes before literally falling asleep for the rest of the film. Jeff Bridges sits in a chair, dishes out orders and sniffs his cigar. Halle Berry sits behind a computer monitor. Julianne Moore sits in a diner. Michael Gambon never gets the chance to stand up. These are some of the most famous actors in the world, and believe me when I tell you that they are given nothing — absolutely nothing — to do.
At 141 minutes, Kingsman 2 is an exhausting, idiotic display of reckless cartoon shenanigans; an over-indulgent, self-destructive and phenomenally smug excuse for an actioner. It is vulgar. It is misogynistic. It spends far too much time explaining itself. It also makes a complete arse out of Elton John.
One outrageously misguided scene in a Glastonbury tent (yes, we end up at Glasto) should never, ever have made it past the first draft. It is a hideous piece of work, basically; the kind of cheap and tactless blockbuster that you tend to forget about, even while watching it.
Kingsman 3 is already in the works. I’m out.