Harry Hart, the dapper character played by Colin
Firth who was shot in the head and left for dead in 2014’s “Kingsman:
The Secret Service,” is revived through a deus ex machine mechanism in this sequel; but he’s not the only
character from the first movie who’s brought back to life here. There’s
also Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), one of the unsuccessful
candidates for admission to the Kingsman group in the original film, who was
pretty decisively dispatched in that picture and is back as well.
Whether their return represents the resuscitation of the franchise is,
however, a more doubtful proposition.
Hesketh, in fact, is a major figure in the action spectacular that
opens with a car chase that reestablishes the cartoonish nature of
the series. Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), the lower-class lad whom
Harry trained as a member of the Kingsman group of well-dressed
independent agents, is abducted by Charlie, who is now equipped with a
mechanical arm and hand. Their taxi ride turns into a mad battle
eventuating in the cab being pursued by a trio of bomb-spewing cars.
No points for guessing that Eggsy survives the encounter, but it turns
out that Charlie’s real purpose is to use his arm to hack into the
Kingsman computer system to target all its members and annihilate them—a
ploy that succeeds, leaving only Eggsy and Kingsman general factotum
Merlin (Mark Strong) alive (at least for now).
To regroup to some degree,
they’re off to the States to link up with sister organization
Statesman, which turns out to be led by a chap called Champ (Jeff
Bridges) and includes operatives Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey
(Pedro Pascal), as well as a tech whiz called Ginger Ale (Halle Berry).
At their Kentucky lab they’re also acting as hosts to Harry, whom they
saved but is suffering from amnesia and must be shocked back into recall
before he can become part of the team again.
That’s important, because the world is facing a crisis brought about
by Charlie’s boss, the arch-villainess of the piece, a crazy lady named
Poppy (Julianne Moore), who from her secret base in Cambodia (where she
has turned a temple complex into a berserk facsimile of a 1950s American
small town) has cornered the world market in illegal drugs and intends
blackmailing the US president, played as a sleazy southerner by Bruce
Greenwood, into legalizing them all. Her scheme involves contaminating
all the drugs she peddles with a fatal malady and then requiring
legalization to provide the antidote to the millions affected by it.
Our heroes will have to infiltrate her lair and stop her, though the
president is less determined to do so, for reasons that disturb his
chief of staff (Emily Watson). As if all that weren’t enough, Poppy’s
plans also directly threaten Eggsy’s royal fiancée Princess Tilde (Hanna
That’s an awful lot of characters to keep juggling, and some of
them—Champ, Tequila, Ginger Ale especially—are relegated to the
sidelines, while others—like Tilde—have to content themselves with
occasional interjections. Even Poppy is given surprisingly short
shrift, though Julianne Moore does try to ratchet up her scenes with an abundance
of dastardly overkill. The plethora of folks on hand is exacerbated by
an extended cameo by Elton John, who pops in occasionally as himself, a
captive of Poppy’s who also serves as a medical guinea pig. Those
inserts are supposed to be hilarious, but John’s obvious discomfort
before the camera undermines them.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that the film runs way too long—the
first picture was overextended at a bit more than two hours, but this
one, lumbers on to nearly
two-and-a-half—and devolves into a busy mix of exposition sequences
(surprisingly low on wit, and sometimes too high on the gore that’s
meant to be amusingly campy but is often cringe-inducing). Though
director Matthew Vaughn tries to maintain the colorful, over-the-top comic-book style
that marked the first film and generally succeeds; the formula is
showing signs of tiring even on only a second outing, however, and
though a major character dies in the course of the outlandish mayhem,
that’s clearly no cause for alarm since this installment has played so fast and loose with death.
Firth looks a bit more gaunt than he did in the first go-around, but
his prim façade remains fun to watch, and though Taron Egerton is no more
charismatic than before, he’s settled into the role. The real
scene-stealer remains Mark Strong, who continues to exhibit comedic chops one
might never have expected from his earlier action movies. Pedro Pascal makes
less than you might hope of the Burt Reynolds clone, Whiskey. Visually
the film is top-drawer, in the gaudy fashion director Matthew Vaughn has chosen for
The luscious widescreen images don’t make up for the cartoonish
hollowness of this cluttered, overstuffed exercise in hyperkinetic
spycraft, which is accentuated by the excessive running-time. The
drop-off from the original to this sequel is considerable.