Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class) channeled his inner Edgar Wright to give us a modern action classic that sits next to Mad Max: Fury Road. This doesn’t even come close to surpassing that without the character progression of Eggsy (Taron Egerton), Harry (Colin Firth), Merlin (Mark Strong) or even the mother and daughter who’ve been cut alongside other established characters. Much like a certain television series in its seventh season this year, going off the pages of the source as if the earth was flat generated more risk than reward. What’s left is an entertaining square dance of death that leaves a lot to be desired.
Kingsman is no more after drug lord, Poppy (Julianne Moore) eradicates their headquarters forcing Eggsy and Merlin to flee to Statesman, the alcoholic American counterpart to their tailor shop. Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and the criminally underused Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges team up with the two to take down Poppy’s viral drug outbreak sweeping the world while also trying to score backstage passes from her hostage, Elton John (Elton John).
Credit where it’s due, this tries to continue maturing Eggsy’s skills and change the scenery to stray away from sequel rehash. Problem is killing off established characters and having the new and remaining ones as dead weights for 141 minutes doesn’t help the pacing. Even with Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges put on ice (No pun intended for the former) there’s a lot to juggle. And the only solution this can think of is make everything bigger, but not better.
The lightning choreography and bright cinematography easily rocket the over-the-top set pieces to main course status. But some of them scream retread by taking a piss on the original version for dominant reasons like the iconic bar brawl. Granted it’s a great variation, but did we really need to have a mean spirited slap in the face to the beginning of one of the most iconic moments that defined a character? And don’t get me started on the diner fight that tries to emulate the intensity of the church scene right down to playing spin-the-bottle with the camera. All this would work if it didn’t feel like the red was soaked in invisible ink. Call me insane, but there’s something maniacally artful how the blood painted the town in the original from severed limbs, decapitations and impalements. This feels like getting a censored video game: the violence is there, but the authentic immersion of the fights is gone without a bit more graphic realism.
No one is horribly cast, but in exchange everyone is short on material. Julianne Moore gives her best psychotic cheerleader impression beside her soylent green grinder, but the lack of screen time keeps her performance from exceeding Samuel L. Jackson’s most restrained role to date. Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum are out of the picture after an incredible opener eclipsing Pedro Pascal and his electric rope of anti-gravity. Halle Berry nearly escapes a forced romantic interest routine with Mark Strong. And where does this all go? Nowhere. What’s changed for the characters outside of living the life of an old, serial TV series? Nothing. It’s like forcing a group of claustrophobic hamsters to wander through an endless pipe playset. Only Elton John, his Gaga wardrobe and his sailor tongue get the most out of so little. And did anyone get offended before? Don’t hold your breath for this to not jump off the South Park cliff of no return.
Much like Spectre this sequel is at war with itself about its future. If even one element was slightly inferior to the prequel, this would’ve never had a chance to be one of the greatest sequels. But for all the over-stuffing and sacrifices there’s still some fun enjoyment if you can deal with the flaws that are noticeable afterwards. However if you’re looking for the next evolution in Eggsy’s story, stick with the first movie or read the comic book because there’s got to be room to read something with all these sequels and remakes.