Like new flavours of KitKat, sequels are (and should always be) viewed with a certain amount of suspicion and unease. In both cases, it’s common policy to wonder how the makers could improve an already solid and satisfying original, and more often than not we end up wishing they hadn’t bothered (hello Melon and Mascarpone Cheese KitKat). In Kingsman: The Golden Circle’s case, they really, really shouldn’t have.
The last scene of Matthew Vaughn’s 2014 sleeper-hit Kingsman: The Secret Service hinted at its inevitable sequel, and soured what was an otherwise delightful and entertaining spy-caper by ending on an ill-judged anal sex joke. In hindsight, this should have been read as a big, red warning sign for its follow-up film, having been given a teaser of the tone it would adopt for its part two. But like our misplaced sense of adventure trying wasabi-flavoured chocolate (KitKat, please stop), we all make mistakes out of blind faith and stupidity.
The Golden Circle plot-line revolves around drug mogul Poppy (Julianne Moore) who kills off most of the Kingsmen, a covert order of British spies, in an attempt to hold the world to ransom using killer narcotics. With just Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) left after the Kingsman massacre, they head to the USA where they discover an affiliated American branch of spies, the Statesmen. Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry all make brief, questionable cameo appearances that add nothing to an already overstuffed plot line, while Moore as the villain seems under-baked and over-cast for the script she’s been thrown. Colin Firth, who was killed off in the first film, is brought back on the scene too thanks to an ill-explained bonjela head mask, but even the Kingsman OG can’t save the film from being a mind-numbing dud. No, despite the shiny new star-studded cast and the return of old favourites, co-writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman fail to mask a messy, hole-ridden script, that gives little regard to cohesion and even less concern for audience intelligence.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is pretty much the perfect film for the Trump era: misogynistic, aggressively embarrassing, and seemingly never-ending. The film’s almost two and a half hour running time can in no way be justified, and the biggest joke the film seems to offer is pranking you into thinking there might be something of worth at the end of its 140 minutes. Whereas the first Kingsman installment was genuinely funny and smart, Golden Circle just seems crass and mean-spirited. The film’s action pivots on a crude carousel of killing sprees that are mostly ill-choreographed and overly-long, and in the brief moments where people aren’t being mown down, the script is so bogged down by static exposition that there is isn’t any space for anything interesting to happen.
What seems most disappointing about this latest Kingsman installment however, is its writers’ inability to pick up on social cues. There was an undeniable backlash over the first film’s unfunny anal sex joke, so one might assume that the scriptwriters might avoid similar cheap laughs this time around. Sadly, not. Because hey, why bother writing something witty when you can just continue the unhealthy objectification of women as empty holes for men to stick their dicks in. Golden Circle’s biggest innovation since its first film, is taking misogyny one step further. In a mystifyingly unnecessary scene, Eggsy is tasked with planting a surveillance device on a character played by model turned actress Poppy Delevingne – a device which for some reason will only effectively work if stuck up her vagina, because, in case you weren’t aware, vaginas are hilarious. The camera then proceeds to track down Delevingne’s face, along her body and, using CGI, shows the inside of her vaginal canal. Not only is the scene uncomfortable to watch but its intended hilarity just doesn’t land.
It’s clear that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman need to go back to the drawing board with this one. It’s a shame that what was meant to be a fun, action caper comedy was somehow made into a gratuitously violent, unfunny parody of a Roger Moore Bond film, without any of the class or wit the first Kingsman managed to deliver so successfully. The film’s only saving grace is Elton John’s comedic cameo as a hostage enraged by by his captors’ ridiculous demands on him, and after sitting through this slog of a film, you really know how he feels. Hopefully the inevitable third installment of Kingsmen might fare better than this sequel, but as with the prospect of KitKat’s next New York Cheesecake flavour coming out, I won’t be getting my hopes up.
(Photos copyright: Twentieth Century Fox, Marv Films, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment)