- CONFETTI HURRICANE: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Pedro Pascal star.
Compared superficially against the movies of James Bond and Jason Bourne, the burgeoning "Kingsman" series seems like a hip, young espionage franchise on the make. The spy at its center, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), is a lower-class Londoner turned debonaire international man of mystery, outfitted flawlessly by the tailor shop that gives his spy crew their out-in-the-open cover.
The first installment saw him defeat evil tech mogul Samuel L. Jackson and his plot to kill everyone in the world via remote SIM cards that would drive millions of people into homicidal sprees. It was a comedy.
The second installment, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," has Eggsy facing off against evil druglord Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), who intends to hold the world hostage by poisoning her monopolistic supplies of every illicit substance on the planet. (Smoke a joint or shoot up heroin, you eventually are paralyzed, then your eyes burst.) It, too, is a comedy, though full-blown Bugs Bunny cartoon may be closer to the reality. You'll rarely see such a zany, physics-is-for-the-weak romp, certainly not at an Oscar-baity 141 minutes. It is impossible to describe sober.
How to mark the utter lack of give-a-damn in this confetti hurricane? Maybe in the opening moments when Eggsy is attacked by a former spy school classmate (Edward Holcroft) who turns out to have a Terminator-like arm and who battles him in a high-speed car chase through London that's eventually resolved by missile fire? How about when Moore's Poppy makes one goon at her '50s-themed diner secret volcano jungle lair feed another goon into a meat grinder, then fries up a burger from the meat? Or when they find presumed-dead-from-the-last-movie agent Colin Firth alive but amnesiac in a secret bunker under a Kentucky bourbon distillery? Or when Elton John, in full feather-gown regalia, saves the same agent from a rampaging robot dog?
Director Matthew Vaughn clearly figured that when the original banks more than $400 million worldwide, just double down on the formula. Say yes to the gentlemen-vs.-ruffians bar fights shot by a free-swirling camera, as if a music video has just broken out. Yes to the insane and insanely under-explained gadgetry. Yes to the implausible but delightfully sinister villain trying to wipe out civilization. And sure, while we're at it, let's mix in some bold stealth arguments for legalizing hard drugs. And let Elton John deliver a slow-mo flying kick to a goon's face — while wearing platform shoes.
You'll leave after two-plus-hours with a daft list of favorite moments. (One hard to forget: watching a waiter deliver a burger in Brooklyn's Alamo Drafthouse, where I saw this circus, timed perfectly with a moment in which evil druglord Moore is serving up a human burger.) You'll also leave, though, feeling like you've just been thrown into the dryer with a bunch of golf balls. Or maybe that you've just listened to a 6-year-old tell you about his dream last night. ("And then Halle Berry was there as a nerd who wanted to be an agent. And spy-cowboy Channing Tatum was in cryofreeze because he did some bad blow. And then ...") It's either a smorgasbord for the senses (and it is that) or a movie that takes itself so unseriously as to make it criticism-proof (it is that, definitely) or a contraption of actors and sets and effects and music such that really, really looks like a movie, but is in fact two-and-a-half hours of shimmering culture vomit. Who can say? Maybe the inevitable sequel will sort it out for us.