Action films are sometimes considered not to be very intelligent or worthwhile. However, they are technically more challenging to make with people having to worry about stunts, special effects and other tricky, finicky things. The can also be insightful and clever, examining the nature of violence or posing deep philosophical questions. But perhaps most of all they can be fun; unapologetic fun sceptical that whisks you away from whatever problems you are facing to a bombastic explosion fest where your inner child can marvel at all the pretty lights, destruction and death. A few years ago a man by the name of Matthew Vaughn was the name on everyone’s lips regarding crazy over the top action, with films like Kick-Ass and a movie called The Kingsman: Secret Service which was received positively on its release. He has returned with a sequel to the 2014 film called Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle. So does the sequel live up to the well-regarded original, or does it start to look shabby by comparison?
It has been a year since Eggsy joined the elite secret organisation, Kingsman. He is also in a committed relationship with Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden. However, after a powerful drug organisation, called the golden circle, destroys the spy agency and releases a deadly virus in the drugs they peddle, Eggsy and Merlin must join forces with a similar US intelligence agency, The Statesmen, to defeat the psychotic head of the Golden Circle, Poppy Adams.
From what I can remember of the first Kingsman it was a fun, if overly long, bloody, sweary kick up from a tenacious British Independent filmmaker Matthew Vaughn. It did have its problems yes, it felt a little bit laddish and there were some sections of the film that was incredibly awkward to watch, you know which scenes I am referring to, other than that I think I enjoyed it. The blowout in the church is one of the most creative and well-shot scenes in action history and the beauty of the climax is not to be sniffed at; a good popcorn flick if ever I did see one.
Kingsman 2, however, is a bloated bore. The film clocks in at well over 2 hours and by the time we reach the climax you feel it. It seems as though Vaughn hasn’t so much as learnt from the mistakes of the first film but emphasised them. It is sneering, leering and childish. It seems to build on that awkward end scene containing a Crown Princess with an overly gratuitous section at Glastonbury festival (if you have seen the film you know what I am talking about, if you haven’t I don’t want to really type out what happens, this is a family-friendly movie blog after all.)
Kingsman 2 feels flabby, drawing in story elements and cameos without rhyme or reason and shoves them in any old place leaving actors looking cast adrift and aimless: Emily Watson from TV’s Appropriate Adult is criminally underused as is Channing Tatum, who just dances, Jeff Bridges, who is from the south of America, and Michal Gambon, who is old and British. While the main cast sounds bored waiting to move onto the next project and away from this. Julianne Moore has no idea what she is doing, due to a complete lack of material to work with, though she tries her damnedest as our main villain, Poppy Adams, while Colin Firth and Taron Egerton just go through the motions as our major leads, Eggsy and Harry. However, what we get instead of getting great performances from a talented cast is a cameo from Elton John that outstays its welcome almost immediately.
For an action film, the action and special effects feel a little cheap. The set piece in a taxi feels more like people moving slowly into poses rather than a fight, and the hyperkinetic camera is nauseating. They are fine, but there is a reliance on in-camera post movement, slow motion and sound effects to sell the action. There is also a cheapness to the sets and the green screens that break any kind of world that the film is trying to build; we are keenly aware that they are on a set rather than a field for the scenes in Glastonbury. The cutaways to people stuck in cages and London flats feel baron and bare and have no real life of their own.
Overall, Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle is a disappointment. It promised outrageous action and delivered something slow, sluggish and bloated, much like the ageing music icon hogging the limelight. You can’t wait for the curtains to close.