Recently, Netflix bought Mark Millar’s company Millarworld, hoping to do with its caped kick-assers what Disney’s doing with Marvel superheroes.
That alternative comic-universe assault was well underway more than two years ago, when Kingsman: The Secret Service, adapted from a Millar series and grossing more than $400-million, smarmed and smugged its way through a cartoon-carnage boy-wonder version of James Bond.
It was only at its best when it had some sly fun with, rather than trying to ape, 007 tropes. Now, in parachute-troops Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and company aren’t so self-satisfied this go-around, but the whole ‘he-bang! bam! boom!’ here is more of a garble of enjoyable and stupid fun.
Even with its long, lagging bits, K:TGC can get so action-fixated that it can’t figure out how to make a good entrance: Eggsy struts out the front door of Kingsman HQ (a secret service doesn’t have any secret passages? Later, an explosive plot-turn hinges conveniently on the unlocked door to Eggsy’s man-spy-cave), where he’s ambushed by ex-Kingman recruit Charlie, now robo-handed (this franchise likes spies with killer-prostheses). An elaborate cab-fight ensues—another action-sequence shot in a carefully whirl-around, see-everything-unfold way, as if Matrix bullet-time fights meet slo-mo replays of a domino set-up falling.
Some of this choreographed cartoonishness can be amusingly loopy, as with meat-mincing, ’50s-housewife-like Poppy (Julianne Moore), this instalment’s arch-villain and Charlie’s boss. She lives in a jungle hideout that’s basically a Big Lebowski-like set, complete with diner and bowling alley, and she’s made Elton John her captive song-bird (the big action-climax offers the novelty of witnessing “Rocket Man’s” blowing-up bust-out). But the novelty of Kingsman discovering its American counterpart, Statesman, soon grates—Statesman’s front is a bourbon distillery and its agents include one codenamed, flatly, “Ginger Ale.” One long-thought-dead agent’s resurrection is yet more sci-tech hokum in an overlong movie (The Golden Circle: eight percent longer than GoldenEye and 28 percent longer than Goldfinger!) that’s overstuffed with whiz-bang gadgetry.
Once again, Kingsman is eager to pulp out its violence but, when it comes to sex, turns both prissy (no nudity; a sappy romance) and smutty (a tracker can only be put on a woman via her “mucus membrane”—cue the leering build-up to super-seducer Eggsy fingering his target). There are lip-smacking, profit-grossing plans for a three-quel and a Statesman spin-off, so no doubt there’ll still be plenty of opportunities to keep this franchise repeatedly mediocre.