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VOL. 41 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 29, 2017

5 arguments for, against seeing ‘Kingsman’ sequel

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Have you ever seen a movie you kinda liked, but when someone asked you if they should see it, you hemmed and hawed?

I have. It’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” the sequel to the action spy comedy, “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” But instead of hemming and hawing over it, I’m going to give you five reasons to see the film and five reasons to skip it. Then, if you favor one list over the other, you’ll know if the movie sounds like something you’d enjoy.

First, a primer: “The Golden Circle” is set in a world in which a secret British spy agency called Kingsman neutralizes national and global threats. In the first film, agent Harry Hart recruited and trained Eggsy, a rebellious young man with great potential, and the two saved the world from a villain who tried to kill most of mankind through mind control.

The bad guy got Harry, but Eggsy still reached his potential, giving “The Secret Service” a satisfying emotional arc that transcended the over-the-top action and raunchy humor.

As “The Golden Circle” begins, Poppy Adams, head of the world’s largest drug cartel, wipes out every Kingsman agent except Eggsy and Merlin (the equivalent of Q in the James Bond films). The two survivors then set off on a hunt that leads them to the source of the attack.

Poppy is one step ahead of them, though, as she pulls the trigger on a plan that could either kills millions of people or end the war on drugs.

I’ll start with the plusses:

1. The villain is well-thought out. I’m sure there are people who would get behind an effort to legalize drugs. But Poppy’s motives are selfish and her methods reveal her to be purely evil. I like how the film plays with the audience’s sympathy for a cause and then pulls the rug out from under their feet.

2. “The Golden Circle” also gets the relationships between its characters right. As the movie opens, Eggsy is dating Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden – and the two make a sweet and believable couple.

Even better is how the movie handles the resurrection of Harry, who has amnesia from the gunshot to the eye in “The Secret Service.” The key moment in bringing him back to his old self again lies in Eggsy’s intimate understanding of his past. It’s beautifully, cleverly done.

3. The people who made “The Golden Circle” earns bonus points for having the sheer audacity to create a brash, womanizing Burt Reynolds lookalike and make him a key character in the film. Actor Pedro Pascal somehow takes a mere impersonation and creates a living, breathing character who earns most of the movie’s laughs. I didn’t kinda like Pascal’s performance; I really liked it.

Two stars out of four

4. I’m a sucker for a well-choreographed fight, and while nothing in “The Golden Circle” tops the church scene in “The Secret Service,” some nice stunts and a couple of fun action bits give the film enough energy to carry audiences through to the end.

Keep your eyes peeled for the ski lift sequence. Bond would be proud, although you’d never hear a line like the one an old man mutters at the end of that sequence in a 007 film.

5. How could I not feel some warmth for a film that begins with a bagpipe version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and then segues into “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince for an insane car chase through London? Although not “Baby Driver” cool, I liked the choice of tunes.

Now the minuses:

1. My biggest gripe about “The Golden Circle” is poor character motivation. Before Poppy unleashes hell on Kingsman, Eggsy and company (somehow) don’t know she exists. Hitting the spy organization hard doesn’t pave the way for her plan to move forward; it brings Eggsy and Merlin to her doorstep. Someone should have patched that plot hole.

2. “The Golden Circle” is less concerned with the characters it kills off than the ones it introduces, many of whom are being groomed for more sequels and spin-offs.

The elimination of Kingsman leads Eggsy and Merlin to Kentucky and an American counterpart known as Statesman. While I laughed at the notion of hiding a U.S. espionage outfit in a Bourbon whiskey distillery, the introduction of Statesman gives Eggsy and Merlin all the resources they had with Kingsman. In other words, no harm done.

Worse was the introduction of Channing Tatum as Tequila, a Statesman agent who’s in the film for all of five minutes and then put on ice. That swallow of booze did not go down smooth.

So, how long until the Tequila spin-off is announced? Does every successful action picture have to launch a Marvel-style cinematic universe?

3. Julianne Moore is one of the best actors working in movies today, but wow, does she take a face plant as Poppy. On the page, her character must have sounded menacing, but Moore’s performance is too loose – and perhaps too goofy – for Poppy to be taken seriously.

4. In “The Golden Circle,” Elton John appears as himself in the worst celebrity cameo ever. It’s bad – really bad – and he’s on the screen longer than Tatum. Imagine a friend at a party telling a bad joke again and again, hoping it will catch on, but it never does.

5. Elton John’s many, many f-bombs also strike a bad chord. The first one is funny; the rest are desperate.

There you have it. If you think the joy of hearing a Denver song squeezed out of bagpipes outweighs the horror of listening to Sir Elton cuss enough to make a drill sergeant blush, then “The Golden Circle” might be your ticket to a fun night at the movies.

But if the promise of a good Reynolds impression doesn’t outweigh the thought of suffering through Moore’s Looney Tunes act, then you might want to stay home and knock back a few episodes of your latest binge obsession.

Just leave the tequila in the cabinet.

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