Ever since James Bond came onto the scene in the 1950’s, writers and directors have been trying to dethrone the king of spies. From Ethan Hunt to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to Jason Bourne, the world of espionage has provided many characters, and they have made their mark in cinematic history, but few have come close to dethroning agent 007. The most recent edition of secret agents is the Kingsman, but can someone named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) be taken seriously as a replacement for Bond?
The young Kingsman apprentice to the late Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) has risen through the ranks and has proven his worth to the agency. Despite his commitment to the espionage organisation, he has managed to fall in love with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), who he saved in the last mission to save the world. While they work out the details of their relationship, a new threat comes onto the crime scene, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) the mastermind and global entrepreneur who founded “The Golden Circle.”
Her drug cartel is unrivalled around the world, and now she looks to take the world hostage by tainting all of her products. The next step is to eliminate key obstacles to her plan, which includes the Kingsmen. She does this with one full scaled attack, which leaves Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) alone to determine how to decide who this enemy is and how to bring their tyranny to an end. Their first step is to partner with their American equivalent, the Statesmen. They soon determine that they must join forces to find the whereabouts of Poppy and in bringing her to justice.
Since bringing the graphic novel series to cinemas with Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn has proven that this hyper-violent storyline and the morally ambiguous characters are marketable. The original film brought in over $400 million worldwide and made this sequel inevitable, but does it offer anything new to the genre or franchise?
There were glimpses of promise that started within the first few minutes. The initial chase scene between Eggsy and Charlie (Edward Holcroft), the Kingsman-gone-bad was a cracker. This graphic novel inspired action sequence is completely unbelievable, but it was an enjoyable romp through London. That coupled with the reintroduction of the Colin Firth and Mark Strong characters add a dash of class that allows this film to stay true to the spy genre. Finally, the inclusion of the Statesman arm of the storyline opens up to a wealth of characters to propel this movie forward. Even though these elements did provide a glimmer of light into this franchise, they were not enough to salvage Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Reminiscent to the original outing, the hyper-violent nature of the action and the excessive foul language was a lesson in bad screenwriting. The over-reliance on these mechanisms to propel the narrative forward shows that there was very little substance to offer to audiences. The violence level becomes uncomfortably comical since they desire to save the world, but in the process kill more people than the population of most small island nations. Also, the other bit of confusion is why Poppy targets the Kingsman organisation, but not the Statesman team, but goes to the President of the United States to share her demands and not the Prime Minister of England. Proving that the writers cannot even get their politics right.
Putting these obvious challenges to the side, it is the less-than-hidden message of drug legalisation that is a hard lesson to swallow. Even though the villain is a drug lord, the primary message is that the vast majority of recreational drug users are innocent bystanders in the war on drugs. The vilification of government officials who want to fight against this destructive force in our world and the minimising of the accountability of society’s involvement is egregious. All of the humour and quality cast members cannot make up for the irresponsible decree that Vaughn and company are trying to deliver.
In addressing the original question of the Kingmen being included in the same league with Bond and Bourne, there cannot be enough words to express an emphatic ‘no.’ Unlike James Bond and the other spy franchises mentioned, Eggsy and the rest of his mob lack the charm or taste and should not even to be considered to be in the same class of films.
Due to the mature content in this film it is for adult audiences only.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Some could argue that the Bible does not say anything about illicit drug usage, which is a true statement. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, cannabis, or any other illegal drugs are not mentioned throughout the canon of scripture. To be clear, their exclusion does not mean that God does not have something to say about them or that it gives license to use them.
Beyond being bad for your health and extending to be outside the realm of acceptable behaviour in our society, one thing that Christians are called to in the Bible is to respect and obey the laws of the land. Passages in the old and new testaments like Ecclesiastes 8:2-5; Matthew 22:21; 23:2-3; and Romans 13:1-7 support the argument against the use of illegal drugs. Even with all of the various arguments for legalising drugs, keep in mind that simply disagreeing with a law does not justify breaking that law.
This is merely scratching the surface in this discussion, but hopefully, it can be part of helping to stop this behaviour that is destroying societies around the world.