‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Works Best as Unintentional Camp

Fans of Kingsman: The Secret Service will love the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” They won’t love it as much, but they will laugh at the slapstick violence, gasp as their favorite returnees are endangered, and applaud the ending. Fans of traditional British spy films, will scratch their heads and wonder why. You can make a case that the series harkens back to the golden age of espionage cinema, that this is as close as we’ll get to seeing Roger Moore in a rated R for violence movie, without having to switch to Schlitz, which fizzes when shaken. But the film is more of a nod to the wonders of CGI, made more wondrous through force framing impossible physical feats where actors are redundant. It might as well be a cartoon.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” works as unintentional camp, or worse, undecided camp, because while it is filled with casual gags and witty rejoinders, all understated, as is the British way, it doesn’t commit fully to the comedy, like the original gag film “Casino Royale.” Vaughn puts his stamp on it as a director. It is a crazy movie, brimming with testosterone and fireballs, but it doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go. This is because Vaughn doesn’t put his stamp on the screenplay, which he wrote with Jane Goldman. The lost quality is especially true in the beginning, where it appears to be another sequel looking for a story. It doesn’t find one, but it finds its footing after it dispenses with everyone from the first film, gets fitted for spurs, and moves to America.

Taron Egerton is back as Kingsman secret agent Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, also known as Galahad. A shame really because that is also what his mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is also also known as. Poor Harry died at the end of the first movie, and this one begins at top gear.

Spy movies, especially British ones, and novels are noted for their intricate plotting, clever turnarounds and unforeseen twists. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” has these, but not in abundance when compared to the special CGI effects. There are too many slow motion, 360 degree pans, most of which are in her majesty’s secret service to the 3D viewings. When a film slows so much that a person can step out of the way of a bullet, sidestep a rocket or turn down sex with Poppy Delevingne’s Clara Von Gluckfberg at the Glastonbury Music Festival, it takes away from the realism. This has always been a problem in film. Robert Mitchum flicked a cigarette from a car window into the face of another driver in “Thunder Road” from the late 1940s, for example. Computer generated effects are still in their infancy and are still new toys that directors play with. Like any new toy, there is a tendency to overplay.

Spies can do anything. From piloting planes to knowing the right fork to use at a formal dinner with royalty. Skilled at hand to hand combat or submachine gun fire, although all they really need is an umbrella, a consistent tribute to the avengers. Kentucky fried spies are also well versed in the lasso. Dead spies coming back to life is nothing new. James Bond himself got resurrected in “You Only Live Twice.” When we last saw Harry, he was an ex-person, to paraphrase Monty Python, with two good eyes. Now he is a butterfly looking for a net. Firth is having fun, though, as are the whole cast, but none more than Pedro Pascal as Jack Daniels or Whiskey. He works at the Kingsman’s stateside affiliate, the  Statesman. They don’t tailor suits for a cover. Can you see and Jeff Bridges tailoring suits? His character Champagne runs a company that makes the finest bourbon in the country.

Julianne Moore plays the villain Poppy Adams, she’s runs a drug cartel called “The Golden Circle,” and has a sure-fire plan to keep her dealers from getting high off their own supply. Her best agents, like Angel (Tom Benedict Knight), give their right arm for the company. Others she serves up with onions at her diner. First, they have to go through their own training, and makeover, complete with fingerprint and dental identification removal. She keeps  Elton John  on retainer in a private theater.

The movie also can’t quite decide where it stands as far as drug legislation. Sure, they agree it’s bad to let all recreational drug users die with blood coming out of their eyes but they still prefer people imbibe double malt.

Halle Berry is in this movie. There’s really not much more you can say about her, except that she plays Ginger Ale, the lightweight techie at the Kentucky spy headquarters. She’s there. She’s visible. But even as Ginger Ale sits down at the adult table for a stiffer drink, there is no Berry inside.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle” hits theaters on Sept. 22.