By Mario Ricciardo
Spielberg. Tarantino. Fincher. You know their names, and know their films even better. Now what if I said Matthew Vaughn? “Matthew who?” “That guy I met at the party last weekend?” Although his name doesn’t hold the connotation of a Hollywood heavyweight, his films sure do. He is one of our generation’s most innovative, original, boundary pushing (and under the radar) directors.
Matthew Vaughn has produced, written, and directed “Stardust,” “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” For a director whose catalogue is a series of adaptations of comic books and Neil Gaiman books, you wouldn’t expect him to be very original, but he consistently proves that assumption wrong. Each of his films are fresh, stylish and bold and they also breathe entertaining new life into overdone genres. Long story short, I love his films. You’re wrong if you don’t, and he’s the man.
Unfortunately everyone slips up, even if you are the man (something The Killers’ latest song forgets to mention). In Vaughn’s follow-up to “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” falls flat on its own ambition to entertain. Where the first one cheekily poked fun at classic spy movie tropes, then elevated the genre by dauntlessly pushing the category where it never has before, the follow-up loses that fine line between parody and homage and turns it into an over-the-top jumble that can’t seem to hit the right notes or find its pacing.
If “The Secret Service” were the Connery Era of Bond, “Golden Circle” is Roger Moore. The film is not nearly as meticulous with the notes it hits as the first “Kingsman” movie. A lot of what gets done feels like entertainment done for entertainment’s sake. Whereas the first film had purpose, the sequel stops short at the motive and the motive won’t cut it when compared to what the series originally accomplished.
Even Elton John shows up, and although it makes sense for him to do so, one is not quite sure why he is there. Overall the film serves up style and entertainment, but it falls too far from the polished fun and direction of the first film. Turning in the best performances are the Kingsmen themselves. Stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Mark Strong bring their characters back and to new levels. Done so in a way that the Kingsmen’s American counterparts, the Statesmen, do not.
Channing Tatum is underused as Agent Tequila, Jeff Bridges serves as little more than extra star power for the posters as “Champ”agne, and while Pedro Pascal’s Agent Whiskey is the most convincing of the three, his character doesn’t hold as much swagger as the Kingsman hold style.
The best of the Statesmen is not a man at all, but rather a woman. Halle Berry’s character Ginger Ale is the most enjoyable Statesman to watch, and she gets her due towards the end of the film.
As someone whose first Bond was Pierce Brosnan, it’s pretty cool to see her return to a spy franchise. In short, “Secret Service” was gourmet popcorn entertainment, while “Golden Circle” drops the gourmet.
(2/5 penguins) ??