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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Rollin' along on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie and blog about it, because why not?  Here we get around to Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  I originally watched and blogged about this on December 30, 2017.

I was a big fan of 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I mean, the creators of Kick-Ass (director Matthew Vaughn; based on a comic by Mark Millar) doing their own spin on James Bondian superspies?  What's not to love?  It provided many clever twists on the genre, and was a darn fun film to boot.  So I was really looking forward to its sequel, The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is good, but....

It's been one year since the first film.  Our young hero, Eggsy, has taken his mentor Harry Hart's old role as Agent Galahad in the Kingsman organization, and is on his way to becoming one of their most accomplished agents. And even though it was just a throwaway gag about butt stuff at the end of the first film, he also finds himself dating the Princess of Sweden.  Yup, Eggsy's on top of the world...until the entire Kingman organization is taken out by a secret society known as the Golden Circle, leaving Eggsy and Merlin the tactician as the lone surviving members.  Merlin institutes the Doomsday Protocol, which seems to consist of getting drunk on a bottle of bourbon in a high-end London liquor store.

But Eggsy notices that this Statesman-brand bourbon comes from Kentucky, and with this clue, they head to the Statesman distillery, where they meet their American counterparts, the secret organization known as Statesman.  The Doomsday Protocol means calling on Statesman's help to rebuild and solve the mystery of who took them down.  And as I'm sure as an indictment of how Americans are perceived on the global stage, the Statesman are all cowboy-themed, packing six guns and high-tech lassos.  It's just crazy. 

And then we have our villain, Poppy Adams, played by Julianne Moore.  She's a lot more subdued that Samuel L. Jackson's villain was in the first film.  As she explains when we first meet her, she grew up in the 1980s, when 1950s nostalgia was a full-on fad, so she's glamoured with 1950s.  Her lair is some ancient Central American ruins, heavily modified to look like a typical American town from the 1950s.  So, I think in her portrayal of Poppy, Moore is trying to go for like a 1950s-housewife vibe, but she comes across just a little too subdued. 

Anyway, it turns that Poppy is a pharmacological genius, and the Golden Circle is her drug cartel.  Poppy has a virtual monopoly on illicit drugs, running a billion dollar empire, and what she craves is...legitimacy as an entrepreneur.  So she's spiked her product with a toxin, that'll take out virtually every drug user in the world, and she'll release the antidote when her demands are met.  He demands?  Legalize everything, so she can finally turn her drug empire into a legitimate business. 

This is one of my problems.  With Statesman's public face and source of revenue being a distillery, and Poppy having a monologue or two about how processed sugar, alcohol, and tobacco are far worse than what she peddles, I think they were trying to go for some kind of satire, but it just feels a little off.

The attempted satire continues with the president of the USA's response.  The President decides to simply appear as though he's going along with Poppy's demands.  in reality?  The President decides to do nothing.  As the President sees it, every junkie will die, Poppy will go out of business as all her customers will be dead, and he'll go down in history as the President who won the War on Drugs.  It almost seems to be an unnecessary plot twist.

That was one of my issues with the film.  One too many unnecessary plot twists.  The most welcome, though, is the revelation that Eggsy's mentor, Harry Hart, survived the first film.  Turns out, after Samuel L. Jackson shot Harry in the face, Statesman agents were on the scene almost immediately to investigate, and rescue Harry.  Using Statesman's advanced technology, they were able to heal Harry's brain injury, but Harry has regressed to a younger version of himself.  Turns out the final step is to "reboot the brain" by digging up a traumatic memory.  Of course, Eggsy and Merlin are able to do this, but the question of whether Harry has fully recovered is one that plagues the rest of the film.

And then there's the whole question of Eggsy's new partner, Agent Whiskey of Statesman, and what his agenda is and...yeah.  One too many twists. 

That was my thing, right?  The whole thing just tries to hard to recapture what made the first film such a breath of fresh air.  From the first film, we all loved that fight scene set to Free Bird, right?  Well, in The Golden Circle, there's not one, not two, but three fight scenes done in that same manner:  frantic editing, set to a classic rock song.  Man, do they try. 

There's a couple of real cringe-worthy moments, too.  Like when Poppy makes a new recruit toss a henchman "who failed her for the last time" into a meat grinder, and then the new recruit's final initiation is to eat a cheeseburger.  Guess where the meat came from?  Or when Eggsy has to implant a tracker on a Golden Circle agent by inserting the tracker into her, umm..."down there."  Director Matthew Vaughn goes about a half-a-step away from showing us the entire fingering. 

And let's not get into our modern problems of franchise building and how a good portion of the film seems to be attempting to set up a Statesman spinoff.  Despite what the ads showed up, Channing Tatum as a Statesman agent is just a glorified cameo, no doubt to set him up as the star of the Statesman film. 

But yeah.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle is fun, but it just tries too hard.

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