Movie review: 'Kingsman' sequel's war on drugs hits close to home

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 24 2017 06:08 PM

I considered the first Kingsman movie "The Secret Service" to be one of the best films of 2015. That film had just the right combination of cool action, wry humor, and graphic violence for great entertainment. It introduced us to a rising young star named Taron Egerton who played Eggsy Unwin, a 17-year-old bloke who was trained by Kingsman Harry Hart to be a super spy in his organization. 

This sequel, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," takes place a year after the events in the first film. While Eggsy was a having dinner with his girlfriend Princess Tilde of Sweden and her parents, the entire Kingsman organization gets wiped out by a major attack from Poppy Adams, who runs a major covert international illegal drug operations from Cambodia called the Golden Circle. 

Following their "doomsday protocol," Eggsy and fellow survivor Merlin find their way to Kentucky, USA and connect with a parallel spy organization based in a whisky factory there called the Statesman, which had agents named after various types of liquor. Meanwhile, Poppy announced that she held all junkies of the world hostage with a fatal toxin to pressure the US President to legalize drugs. 

While this sequel still had the moments of slick action and British humor which made the first film a lot of fun to watch, I felt that the plotting and writing was not as sharp as the original. I thought it was too early in the series to decimate the Kingsman organization just like that, when we barely knew them yet and would like to see them in more adventures. Now they introduce us to a new set of American agents with different quirks and weapons, as if they could not come up with anything more to tell about the Brit agents. 

Taron Egerton (as cocky and sentimental Eggsy), Mark Strong (as the ever-efficient and ever-loyal Merlin) and ever-reliable Colin Firth (back to life with one eye here as Harry) delivered as expected. Their scenes with their dashing fashion flair and gravity-defying moves are the best in the movie, very distinctly British. 

Their American counterparts played it Western style (complete with John Denver songs in the background). Jeff Bridges role as the big boss Champagne was practically a glorified cameo. Pablo Pascal had visually potent fight scenes as Whiskey with his lasso and whip moves. Channing Tatum had an unexpectedly abbreviated screen time as Tequila, but they felt the need to show a scene of him being frozen in a pod in his underwear. Halle Berry was so plain and mousy as the neglected aide Ginger Ale, I felt sorry for her being cast in that thankless demeaning role.

The introduction of Poppy Adams and her elaborate '50s-inspired theme park headquarters, with its makeover salon, burger grill and robotic guard dogs (Bennie and Jets), took a lot of time to set up. The performance of Julianne Moore as the sweet, sinister and sadistic Poppy felt cartoonishly familiar. Elton John was such a campy actor even if he played himself, but in a hilarious way dressed in his outrageous '70s outfits.

Poppy's grand plot with the toxin-laced drugs was over-the-top but felt very current, with the real-time war on drugs issues lately. The ulterior plot of the fictional US President (played by Bruce Greenwood) to rid society of drug addicts wholesale sounded like it came straight out of the TV news, especially meaningful for Filipino viewers. 

For me, this film should have been rated an R-16 at least, and not R-13. It had graphically violent scenes (a man pushed into a meat-grinder shot from the top view!), sexy scenes (a close-up view of Eggsy's finger entering a girl's fuschia silk panties in order to insert a tracking device which we even follow inside her "vaginal vault"!), as well as many scenes of drugs and alcohol consumption. 

Overall, this film directed and co-written by Martin Vaughn was still an entertaining film to watch, even if it had some pretty messy excesses as symptoms of its "sequelitis." I also had misgivings about the premature demise of the Kingsman group in just the second film in the series. I felt this one would have been better as the last film of the trilogy, before transitioning to a planned separate Statesman franchise. 6/10 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."