Return of the sharp suiters …..
Time was when a Bond film wasn’t a Bond film without its quota of gadgets, but today’s 007 can do without them. So where did they all go? Some big gizmo heaven in the sky? Wrong! They’ve moved to the Kingsman organisation. Some of them popped up in their first cinematic adventure a couple of years ago and now there’s even more on show in the follow-up, Kingsman:The Golden Circle.
Anything from a lethal lasso to a freezing agent cunningly disguised as a can of Kingsman deodorant is trotted out in Matthew Vaughn’s latest outing for the spy organisation masquerading as a high class gentleman’s outfitters. But that’s not all. The cast has been beefed up with some Hollywood heavyweights – Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum – plus a celebrity cameo to end all cameos. Put that all together and you start wondering if this is a film with something to hide.
Plot-wise, this picks up almost exactly where the first film left off. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is still a bit of a lad, but is also now a fully-fledged member of the Kingsman organisation. He’s just settled in with his job and his girlfriend when the whole set up is under attack and, in one fell swoop, almost annihilated: its HQ and all other buildings associated with it go up in smoke. All that’s left is Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) – and, in the emergency safe, a bottle of sipping whiskey from across The Pond. It leads them to an allied organisation, Statesman, which hides behind a drinks business. Reluctant partners at first, they find themselves working together to find out who was behind the plot to exterminate Kingsman. Because now they have the entire world in their sights.
Actually, the essential trio from the first Kingsman movie returns because Colin Firth reprises his role as Harry, Eggsy’s mentor. It’s been well-publicised, so that’s no spoiler. But their partners in espionage from across The Pond have much smaller roles than you would expect. Julianne Moore gets the most screen time as the villain who must be obeyed, but Tatum spends the majority of the film out of action and Bridges has just a handful of scenes. The two are also saddled with predictably contrived names: Bridges is Champagne, known to his colleagues as Champ, and Tatum is Tequila. Their female equivalent of Merlin is Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale. I kid you not.
It’s hard to escape the idea that the star names and all those gadgets are there to conceal the shortcomings in the story. When you strip away the trappings, it’s pretty basic. Kingsman and Statesman (geddit?) are fighting criminal mastermind, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is looking to take over the world. Her name might give you a clue as to her stock in trade – the film is full of little winks like that, as is much of the humour, including the inevitable English v American clichés. Just to make doubly sure its weaknesses are well and truly hidden, there’s a celebrity cameo from a solid gold A lister, held captive by Poppy. Elton John. Staggeringly, nobody in the wider world has noticed he’s missing but, as it is, he parodies himself with gusto – bad tempered, highly strung and foul mouthed.
Does it really matter that the plot’s on the weak side or that the humour is predictable and clichéd? Not really. It’s all part of the fun. After all, the original Kingsman was a cartoon strip and this latest outing has translated that style direct onto the screen. It’s fast, glossy and reasonably slick. There’s plenty of action and it gets underway just a few seconds into the film, with a cab chase through the streets of London. Admittedly some of the CGI leaves a bit to be desired, as does the slo-mo, so those sequences aren’t quite all they should be. But this is a film that doesn’t take itself in the least bit seriously. With its echoes of previous 007 films, and attempts at a similar style of humour, it’s more like Bond’s naughty little brother.
In case you’re wondering, a Kingsman 3 looks highly likely. The film points in that direction and Vaughn has been talking about it. And, if the closing scenes of this instalment are anything to go by, the location could easily be Scotland. In which case, bring on those Sean Connery impersonations and gags about men in kilts ……!
Kingsman:The Golden Circle is released in cinemas on Wednesday, 20 September.