Kingsman, with all the financial success, doubled down and crafted a sequel for new and old fans of the film and/or comic series with Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And far as villainy goes, the first film had Samuel L Jackson channelling
an evil Def Jams Russell Simmons with lispthhh and all. So, by all means, the second should pretty much up the ante.
So let’s see what second hamburger helping we’ve gotten here. Oo, Meaty-like.
After saving the world, the Kingsman has been seemingly enjoying the fruits of their labour – or at least their status. From finely-tailored suits from Saville Row to hailing privately-owned black cabs. Splendid. But trouble starts from now top agent Eggsy when a rogue failed prospect comes back to exact some revenge, armed with… well… a mechanical arm. And thus begins an intense fight sequence in a fast-moving black cab. But even as Eggsy evades his pursuers, the Kingsman’s mainframe gets hacked and the locations of almost all of the Kingsman agents get a special delivery of a missile that blows up everyone including the HQ. Now, with a barebones crew, the remaining Kingsman enact the Doomsday Protocol – essentially reaching out to their cousin organization across the pond in Kentucky, America for some assistance – the Statesman.
Getting rid of the Kingsmen was perpetrated by the Golden Circle, a drug enterprise, operating clandestinely to this point, led by the aptly-named Poppy. Can’t have them messing up her plans. Which involves lacing all her drugs with a virus that ultimate paralyzes and kills its partakers. Now it’s up to Eggsy to get along with his Cousin organization to find out who is behind the decimation of his HQ. On top of dealing with finding out Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is alive, but suffering from amnesia after being shot in the head and brought back to life by ‘magiscience’ (a neologism of the words ‘magic’ and ‘science’).
The first Kingsman felt like a spoof of the spy / James Bond genre. As it should. But seeing a car transform into a submarine wasn’t cool the first time we’ve seen it. But nonetheless, we got to see it in this sequel.
Another element that is the most notable in the spy genre is the characterization of the villain. Borrowing from the noir genre of foreign, accented, overly exaggerated characters that take tangent monologues detailing their evil plans. Poppy here was no different. Except, her spoof was not nearly as funny as Samuel L Jackson’s. Sam was queasy at the site of blood, talked with a lisp, and dressed like an internet mogul. And not to mention scissor legs topped the badassery in the henchwoman department. But this time around we have a boss who built a 50’s-inspired strip-mall in the ruins deep in an Amazonian jungle. And she has mechanical dogs. And Elton John. But even with all that, Poppy just wants to be recognized for being the best motherfucking drug dealer in the world like all the Pharmaceutical douchebags that run Fortune 500s and the rest.
The thing with spoofs is the merger of humour, poking fun at tacit whilst throwing in some commentary for added measure. Kingsman: The Golden Circle did 2 of these. 1 very poorly. And neither of the previous 2 statements was in reference to the funnies…
A pet peeve of mine. Surely. With the villains being A-grade caricatures of Bond Villains (when Bond Villains themselves are caricatures) it would only serve for the narrative to have the same genetic makeup. This time around it wasn’t sim cards being distributed globally to trigger people to go into violent rages, it was drugs laced with a toxin that would bring certain death to the user without the antidote. Kinda beats the point of overdosing doesn’t it.
And would the antidote cure the drug addiction, or no?
But there seemed to be a message, that chemical dependency isn’t just for the criminal. A talk for the decriminalization of drugs. There are working professionals that need to take the edge off. The reason why they showed the US president’s advisor way too much for a random supporting actress.
And here’s my problem. They didn’t touch on the network and the structure that promotes drug distribution worldwide or how it infiltrates and bolsters the very economy of the US. How the war on drugs was code to attack minorities. But all the people who got infected with this Golden Circle tainted drug that we are to care about is the innocent experimenting daughter of royalty Tilde, some US Presidential advisor and the rest of the Glastonbury crowd.
This all would be fine if we were talking Jump Street-type of drug effects because even that film made interesting observations when it came to youth addiction. And it would have been way funnier. Not just weak dancing and then paralysis. Instead, Kingsman 2 had social commentary on the nature of drug politics that doesn’t touch on the real victims or the true perpetrators of addiction, and how the media treats these two very differently. Like how heroin addiction in, coincidentally, the white south of the USA is an epidemic that needs rehabilitation but crack addiction in inner-cities needs the firm hand of Anglo-American law leading to massive incarceration of non-violent offenses. And the difference is stark when terms like ‘experimenting’ is used for some, and ‘addict / drug-using criminal’ is used for the ‘Others’.
If you’re going to be spoof and be funny, be funny. But if you are adding some social commentary, do some research. They didn’t do either of these well.
Death is a great motivator to spur character to fight for their lives. That type of finality is something we all try to avoid. But when people come back from the dead miraculously, it can cheapen any narrative in this day and age. Even if the resurrection was an intended plot point. Nothing new when it comes to Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Colin Firth’s Harry is back, though he’s got butterflies for brains. So while we didn’t get to see a suave Harry go ham until the end, we had to endure flashback scenes of his revival, then being a former shell of himself looking like a sad, lost pup.
For me it’s the whole spoon feeding explaining that follows the resurrection of a character. “Oh, remember what happened in the first film? Let’s shoot some extra footage of us arriving on the scene and how our magiscience procedure works to repair brain tissue…”. Tired.
Kingsman was fun in its own rights. Kingsman 2, not so much. The eccentric villain didn’t feel compelling this time around, even when complete with mechanical hounds and a giant meat grinder. And see Eggsy go effortlessly from suavely suited to Sports Direct’s finest/chav is disturbing to say the least. But seriously, the mirroring of the Kingsman on the American side, impractical weaponry and wearing a fucking suit in the dense brush of a tropical jungle just screams absurdity at the highest level. And not the fun-loving, hilarity infused kind at that. Okay, well the lasso was fun. The ‘betrayal’ twist at the end… not so much. Introducing some backstory monologue of his sister getting killed by two meth heads… ugh. But alas, rarely do sequels top the performance of the predecessor. We just hope next time around they add a little bit more of a layered narrative and jokes that hit. And the American Vs. British narrative has already gotten superbly old.