When, in 1977, Carly Simon sang “Nobody Does It Better” in reference to Britain’s favourite secret agent, 007, she couldn’t have foreseen the coming of Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton).
While the idea of a working-class lad OHMSS had been covered in slightly more low-key form of Harry Palmer,1 Matthew Vaughn’s comic-book-inspired Kingsman: The Secret Service was the first to do so while embracing the fundamental silliness of the whole super-spy concept.
Now, Eggy’s back in the similarly redundantly titled Kingsman: The Golden Circle. A year on from the events of the previous film – three years in real time – he’s still living in a council flat, hanging out with the same group of mates, but also happens to be dating a Swedish princess, Tilde (Hanna Alström). No younger a callow but promising “yoof”2, he knows the names of all the cutlery and how to dispense an arse-kicking when unexpectedly confronted by an enemy from the past.
This opening sequence, with Eggsy exchanging blows with his former nemesis, posh boy Charlie (Edward Holcroft) – now equipped with a cybernetic arm, a must-have accessory for any self-respecting henchman.3 – in the back of a London cab, gets things off to a gleefully delirious start.4 Even the cut-together CGI-ness of it all feels more like a choice than a limitation and it’s executed with such panache, it’s impossible not to get swept along; especially when the black taxi goes full-on Lotus Esprit (shattered windshield and all).
When Kingsman HQ is unceremoniously destroyed, plunged into a sinkhole by a never-again-referenced missile strike, the trail leads Eggsy and the remaining Kingsmen to their US counterparts, the Statesmen5, and with them one Harry Hart (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor from the previous film. It just goes to show that even a bullet to the head after going on a congregation-murdering rampage can’t keep a good man down; even if he does appear to experiencing a few worrying butterfly-related glitches.
The Golden Circle has everything you might hope of a modern-day Bond homage/ripoff: a scheming, drug-dealing villain – the chipper, entrepreneurial Poppy (Julianne Moore) – operating out of a ’50s-themed hideout in the Cambodian jungle; a number of frenetic, outrageous action sequences6; a a few off-taste gags that would have made Roger Moore blush to deliver them7; and a… forlorn Elton John in a bird costume?
The Golden Circle lacquers on a thick coating of mannered style and gory humour on top of this Bond-inspired thrill ride. Even at 141 minutes, though, the film is crammed past the point of coherency. We only get a single shot of Tequila (Channing Tatum) and maybe a measure of Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Even the Oscar winners that have been added to the cast – a clean-shaven Jeff Bridges as “Champ”8, the head of the Statesmen, and Halle Berry as their mousey in-house Q, Ginger Ale – come in seemingly pre-approved measures. The Kingsmen’s Q, the slap-headed Scottish Merlin (a returning Mark Strong), gets but one magic moment.9 Still, there’s a purity to the film’s impure simplicity.
If Bond is no longer up to the task, and Austin Powers is MOA, there are worse successors to the super-spy mantle than Kingsman.
- A role which Michael Caine subverted with his appearance as a snobbish M-like figure in the first film.
- Egerton himself is now twenty-seven.
- Tee hee.
- Well, not quite: it’s proceeded by a swelling orchestral version of John Denver’s now cinematically ubiquitous “Country Roads”.
- Named not for Arthurian knights but alcoholic beverages, of course.
- Including one that seems designed to top the cable car sequence from Moonraker, but which fails due to the lack of a suitably Jawsian henchman.
- There’s an incident at Glastonbury that seems purposefully designed to one-up the outrage from the original Kingsman‘s anal joke.
- Short for Champagne.
- John Denver inspired no less.