Movies based on comic-books are predominantly superhero blockbusters, so when Kingsman The Secret Service hit cinemas in 2015, an adaptation of the Mark Millar comic series, it breathed some welcome fresh air into cinemas around the world offering comic book tropes in a world outside superpowers..
The first film was a glossy, fun, funny, silly, sexy, naughty, violent spy romp that introduced us to Taron Egerton as Eggsy, a young misfit who finds a home amongst elite well attired spies including mentors Colin Firth – as Harry Hart aka Galahad, and Mark Strong – as Merlin, on a mission to thwart billionaire tech terrorist Richmond Valentine played with glee by Samuel L Jackson.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up exactly where the last film left off, and as Eggsy leaves the office, disguised as a tailor shop in central London, at the end of a day’s work, he is met by a menacing armed chap who insists he step into the black cab parked at the curb.
Eggsy with the aid of his spy glasses recognises this is Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), a rejected Kingsman applicant, who caused trouble in the first film and is back for more, this time with the aid of a metallic robot arm.
Eggsy pushes Charlie into the cab with him and the wild rollercoaster thrill ride of the film kicks off, with non-stop action continuing for another couple of hours as Eggsy survives not just this threat on his life, but a wider plot to destroy the Kingsman that is almost successful.
A high speed cab chase through the streets of London is just one of many set stunt pieces that rely heavily on CGI (as well as multiple skilled stunt teams) and are enormously entertaining.
With the cab arriving at a lake inside Hyde Park, and once his pursuers are dispatched, Eggsy has an important date to make and demonstrates just how important this is when his only means of escape is through a sewer tunnel and he plunges in without hesitating.
When he arrives home to his girlfriend Tilde, a Swedish Princess, played by Hanna Alström, she proves how much she cares about him by being prepared to kiss despite the intolerable pungent filth he is covered in.
It is an effective method of setting up the personal stakes that underlie the bombastic cartoon action that forms the majority of the film. If you saw the first film you’ll know that the relationship also has a few naughty touches, and sexually risqué ideas pop up again in this instalment.
Eggsy is set to meet the Swedish Royal Family for the first time and must impress his beau, a concept most of us have experienced at one time or another.
The rest of the story centres on Poppy Adams, (Julianne Moore) a reclusive drug baron who controls the majority of the illicit drug trade globally and wants to go legit.
She is ensconced in a jungle hideaway decorated in a 1950s Americana theme complete with diner, bowling alley and beauty salon.
Poppy runs The Golden Circle and she has laced her drugs with a virus that gives its users firstly a #BlueRash, followed by symptoms of mania, paralysis and then death.
She petitions the US President (who of course in reality uses the moniker POTUSA) to make drugs legal and grant immunity in order for her to provide the affected drug users of the world with an antidote to the #BlueRash, which as you may have guessed by the hashtag is trending, not just on social media, but also on Fox News.
The film contains excessive violence, but always in a cartoon fashion, thus scenes of a man being shoved into a meat mincer in the diner before being served up as hamburger, or a villain being cut in two with a lasso later in the film elicit laughter in the jam-packed audience, rather than terror or revulsion.
Moore is wonderful in her role of the sociopathic Poppy and proves a worthy successor to Samuel L Jackson’s villain Valentine.
With the UK spy contingent all but extinct, the surviving members have headed stateside to encounter Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), the members of Statesman, the US independent spy agency that is an equivalent organisation to Kingsman albeit with a slightly different dress code.
The film occasionally changes gear for a more thoughtful moment, but is happiest barrelling along with ridiculous scenes such as Eggsy announcing they have a lead on locating the antidote by “tracking Charlie’s ex girlfriend through social media”, a line that gets a big laugh, one of many in the film.
The action takes them to Glastonbury where a graphic sequence inside a tent involves the planting of a tracking device, and to the ski slopes of Italy for a huge sequence involving a cable car disaster that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film, except for the final punchline, delivered by a resident of a retirement home that sits directly in the path of the collapsing skyway.
It’s a film by boys for boys, the ultimate mash-up of Mad magazine, GQ, Loaded, Esquire and Details, with an unhealthy dose of illicit drugs thrown in for bad measure.
If you like that kind of thing you’ll be in heaven. If you are a straighty-180 and have no sense of humour you might be in trouble.
Atomic Blonde was a graphic novel big screen blockbuster for chicks, and this is one for the fellas. That said, there was a huge response to the very many funny beats of the film in my packed to the rafters session and with easy on the eye leading men like Taron and Channing, it is a very digestible fast food meal. Without the human hamburgers of course. The film is a crowd pleaser, not a critical darling.
There is also an interesting narrative about legalising drugs, (Save Lives – Legalize) which is a conversation that seems to have completely dropped off the radar.
As Poppy advises one of her henchmen during the film, “sure, have some sugar with your coffee, it’s only 8 times more addictive than cocaine, and five times deadlier. If I was peddling tobacco or alcohol, I’d be a Fortune 500 company.”
The film itself is a sugar rush that leaves you with a brief high, and no doubt paves the way for further instalments. It runs slightly too long, but overall delivers what it says on the bottle.
No need to age this one, best enjoyed now with a gang of mates.
Oh, and I should have mentioned – contains Elton John.
First Class Fun – 3 Stars.