Matthew Vaughn’s follow-up to the unexpected hit, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” delivers on action and spectacle but lacks the surprise element that made the original so fresh.
Though a controversial scene, when Colin Firth walked into a church of hateful preachers and mowed them down in a blaze of comic book violence, you felt like you were watching something truly original. Matthew Vaughn had delivered on his promise of bringing a sense of tongue in cheek humour to the spy genre. It was delightfully anarchic to see both Colin Firth play against type, and have a lead in someone like Taron Egerton, a fresh faced young actor in his debut film role.
The strengths of the first film have all been duly noted, and with the sequel it’s a case of taking what people loved the first time around, ramping them up and throwing them at the film with the hope that it can all stick together. Hence the return of Colin Firth (it’s not a spoiler if he’s on the poster), who was definitively shot in the head last film, but hey head shots might as well be head colds in the Kingsman universe.
Though the reasons for this are solid and not entirely unwelcome, it does unfortunately rob the following action of its previous sense of jeopardy. Undeniably the Kingsman team have great chemistry so keeping Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Mark Strong together is never an awful idea, but unfortunately much of their screentime is sidelined by an introduction of a string of A-list American actors and a certain mega pop-star.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Elton John’s contribution to the plot is just as major as Channing Tatum’s, Jeff Bridges’ or Halle Berry’s, which is just as ridiculous as it sounds. Many of the big actors feel as if they’ve popped in for an afternoon or two of filming, and therefore are largely absent from huge chunks of the narrative. Though it’s great for promotional purposes, as far as the actual film is concerned it left me rather clueless at certain character’s inclusions. Elton John’s very extended cameo works well at the beginning, but contrary to the general consensus, to me the joke wore thin fairly quickly.
Two new characters that actually made an impression were Julianne Moore’s villainous Poppy, who while perhaps over-doing it slightly stood as a solid big bad, and Pedro Pascal’s lassoo wielding Whiskey, who livened up every action scene he was in. The action in the film is well done, with a great sense of fun and energy that if you can get past the CGI is unashamedly fun to watch unfold.
Narratively the film jumps all over the place. There’s too much going on, lots of heavy-handed exposition, and the middle of the film sags under detours down plot strands that slow the momentum of the film. One of these is a notorious undercover mission at a music festival that sees Eggsy having to get very close to an enemy agent to place a tracking device. Like the last film’s poorly judged anal sex gag, this is already proving divisive with viewers. All I’ll say is that it delivers on shock value, although a certain degree of uncomfortableness is certainly felt.
The film has a decent stab at providing emotional heft to bring some depth to all the crazy going ons. I admired the sentiment, though felt much of it was buried underneath the other goings on. A certain big character moment near the film’s end is presented as a big emotional punch, but feels just an ounce underbaked. That being said, the music of John Denver certainly helps.
Overall the film is too long and too undisciplined to reach the heights of the first Kingsman, but I really loved the first one so I found things to love here. If there’s a third film, it’s really down to the writers to get their act together.