Kingsman: The Golden Circle

 

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Enormous adult-themed fun which both exploits and celebrates the 'special relationship' 

between the UK and US.

  

Kingsman The Golden Circle

Bit of a bind: Taron Egerton and Mark Strong

 

You know what sequels are like. It’s invariably a case of diminishing returns, depreciated ideas and a desperate need to make the second helping even bigger and brasher than the first. However, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) was so audacious and over-the-top in the first place, that it was hard to see where the scriptwriters Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn could take it. After all, Samuel L. Jackson’s lisping megalomaniac had planned to wipe out most of the human race via the distribution of his free (and lethal) SIM cards and had already shot dead the leading man, Colin Firth.

 

The director Matthew Vaughn admitted that writing the screenplay to The Golden Circle “was the hardest thing I've ever done” – but the effort was worth it. Whereas the first film frequently lurched into ostentatious silliness, its sequel is grounded by an ingenious premise that undermines the often formulaic depiction of the Bond villain. Here we have Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), an all-American, all-smiling female entrepreneur whose ruse to dominate the world even makes some sickening sort of sense. Sugar, Poppy reasons, is far more addictive than cocaine and yet is completely legal, as is the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Her goal is to end the global prohibition on drugs so that it can be formally regulated, thus eliminating drug-related crime and in the process giving her a total monopoly of the market.

 

Like all standard-issue villains, Poppy has created a fabulous lair in which to lie low, although this one is a little more outré than most. Confessing her nostalgia for Grease, American Graffiti and Happy Days, she has fashioned a luxurious 1950s’ jungle retreat in Cambodia complete with a huge American diner and a massive private cinema (showing Captain Fantastic). It is here that she unleashes her dastardly plan, the dissemination of a sophisticated toxin that contaminates the world’s recreational drug supply, turning its users first into blue-veined eyesores, then dancing dervishes, then catatonics and finally corpses. Then, in return for the free distribution of her “pharmaceutical” product, she will issue an antidote that will reverse the effects of her toxin, which has already infected a large percentage of the world’s population. Her campaign slogan? “Save Lives. Legalize.”

 

Meanwhile, Poppy has eradicated the London headquarters of the Kingsman Secret Service, along with all its members. However, because our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) was visiting the parents of his girlfriend in Sweden, he survived the attack and so teams up with fellow agent Merlin (Mark Strong) to fight another day. Then, in a labyrinthine contrivance, they are allied with the Kingsman’s American counterpart in Kentucky, an agency run by Jeff Bridges’ Champ (short for ‘Champagne’). And so with the help of a secret agent called Jack Daniels (Pedro Pascal), they set off across the world to foil Poppy’s plot.

 

All this is peppered with a carousel of riotous gags and often thrilling set pieces, with the introduction of a raft of colourful characters. And none come more colourful than Poppy’s pet hostage, a flamboyant rock star called Elton John (Elton John) who has, himself, indulged in a bit of pharmaceutical recreation.

 

Along with his all-star cast, Matthew Vaughn has included a slew of well-known figures who don’t play themselves. There’s a Burt Reynolds clone aped with panache by Pedro Pascal, Mark Arnold as a dead ringer for Oliver North (in the White House) and even an amoral US president dishing out fake news and showing little interest in the fate of foreigners. The latter is portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, who’s no stranger to US presidents, having previously occupied the Oval Office in both Thirteen Days and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. In fact, the in-jokes come thick and fast, including mischievous motifs from the James Bond songbook, a tribute to Channing Tatum’s Terpsichorean prowess and a grisly homage to a very famous scene from Fargo. There’s plenty more to catch, but the movie races along so fast that it’ll take several viewings to absorb it all. Indeed, there’s more visual wit in any given five minutes than most films can brag about in two hours.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, Sophie Cookson, Michael Gambon, Poppy Delevingne, Björn Granath, Thomas Turgoose, Keith Allen, Tom Benedict Knight, Lena Endre, Samantha Womack, Mark Arnold, Samuel L. Jackson.

 

Dir Matthew Vaughn, Pro Matthew Vaughn, David Reid and Adam Bohling, Screenplay Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Ph George Richmond, Pro Des Darren Gilford, Ed Eddie Hamilton, Music Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson, Costumes Arianne Phillips.

 

Marv Films/Cloudy Productions-20th Century Fox.

140 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 20 September 2017. Cert. 15.