'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' shines

By Adam Pilskog

Imagine you took five Oscar winners and Channing Tatum and put them together in a James Bond film by a very talented writer/director. Then imagine that particular James Bond film is rated R, has more gonzo action and special effects than typical, but somehow retains the same suave and classy appeal as the iconic paradigm of the genre. Then imagine, if you will, that the lead isn’t any of the aforementioned award winners, but rather, a young, burgeoning movie star on the brink of a breakout career, and you have “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Truth be told, Halle Berry shouldn’t have won an Oscar in the first place, and Elton John is hardly known for his Academy Award, but the cast is stellar and noteworthy nonetheless. Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth and Julianne Moore could headline just about any film on the planet, but I am delighted they chose this one. 2014 introduced us to Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young English lad with a skill set that earned him membership as an apprentice into the elite Kingsman spy agency. The success of the film opened the door for a new franchise, which I imagine will continue to thrive due to sheer range of appeal (and the almost certain box office draw).

This time around, Eggsy has matured to a full-blown agent, and not 20 seconds into the film are we tossed into a spectacular fight sequence that gives the audience a preview of what’s to come. Although the action doesn’t maintain the stamina promised, the scenes are expertly choreographed and delivered with a polished execution that doesn’t disappoint.

Eggsy has to save the world yet again, this time from the evil (and sadistic) Poppy (Julianne Moore), whose agenda is much more endearing than that of Samuel L. Jackson in the original “Kingsman: Secret Service.” With plenty of allusions to the hypocrisy and lunacy of current drug legislation and enforcement, there are some political jabs, but it’s all in good fun. After all, the tone is wild and outlandish. Kingsman enlists the help of their American counterparts, Statesman, and together they risk life and limb to save the unsuspecting masses.

Matthew Vaughn has yet to miss the mark. Director of the surprise hit “Kick-Ass” and the strongest of the X-Men films (“X-Men: First Class”), he seems to be on a roll that will lead to a strong reputation as well as a financial boon (he also wrote and produced). His style is influenced heavily by his long-time associate, Guy Ritchie, but without the unnecessary calling card of immediately recognizable glitzy camera work. It’s refreshing, and I daresay Vaughn has surpassed Ritchie in terms of quality with this film.

When I wrote about the original, I was pretty hard on it, but after a second viewing, I came to appreciate it for the director’s somewhat unique vision. It grows on you, and I would urge you to give the original film another shot before making a trip to your local theater for some good old-fashioned fun.

This is a rare instance of the sequel being better than the original, joining the ranks of “Empire Strikes Back,” “Aliens” and “The Dark Knight.” You could sway me on “Godfather: Part 2” as well, but I digress. The film takes the best parts of the original and improves, showing that sometimes the best formula for success in film is to just have fun and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I appreciated the toned-down violence, and although the American Statesman were a bit too stereotypical, the absurdity works with aplomb.

If I haven’t sold you thus far, I will say that the film showcases exceptionally strong performances by both Egerton and Pedro Pascale (“Narcos,” “Game of Thrones”) who plays Agent Whiskey. They stand out among giants and make this truly worth watching. All in all, it’s a really fun film that is much needed to jump-start the current drought of quality films out there (“It” notwithstanding).



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