Calum Esler

Kingsman: The Secret Service was a fun, light-hearted spy movie that refused to take itself too seriously. It changed the game for a genre that has recently moved into the area of intense, gritty thrillers and what’s more, it was entertaining to watch.

So with all that on my mind I went into the sequel (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) expecting that, at the very least, I would be entertained by what would hopefully be another fun romp through the spy genre.

How wrong I was.

The notes I took after seeing the film look like the ravings of a madman questioning everything he believes: “Why do I hate all of these characters?” “This movie doesn’t make any sense.” “Elton John can’t act.” But for the purposes of this article what I want to focus on is the question right at the top of my page: “What is the message here?”

Good films are captivating; great films make you think. A great film will be an enjoyable experience at the time but will also leave you questioning the ideas and views explored throughout the piece. Kingsman attempts to achieve this, but it always feels like the writers don’t actually know what they want to say. The main villain (played by Julianne Moore) is a hugely successful drug dealer who wants to become famous as a legitimate businesswoman. To do this she decides to poison all recreational drugs and then hold the world to ransom until drugs are legalised. As evil ‘mastermind’ plans go this is not the worst we’ve ever seen and it starts a promising conversation about legalisation. Unfortunately, this exploration feels less like a conversation and more like a bunch of people standing in a room shouting at each other.

Now, there isn’t a problem with a film setting up two contrary viewpoints and pitting them against each other in order to further explore a theme or idea. The issue here, however, is that KTGC does not establish this dialogue, and simply contradicts itself. It never feels as though any of the conflicting opinions about legalisation and drug use are brought against each other, rather it feels as though the writers change their mind constantly throughout the film leaving the viewer confused about what it is they are supposed to be thinking by the end.

First we have a strong case for legalisation where the various benefits of such an action are extolled. This comes alongside a deconstruction of the drug user stereotype. So far, so good. We are then made aware of the dangers of drug use and the huge price that many pay for using even seemingly recreational drugs. This whole section seems to be saying that we should stay away from drugs and the problems they cause. The logical thing to do next – having brought up these two conflicting views – would be  to have them confront each other so that the film could discuss the merits and faults of both and then finally come to a conclusion by the end of the film.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not a logical movie. You thought we’d see a development of two contrasting ideas so that we could get to the root of a contemporary and relevant issue? Think again! Instead KTGC decides to end this ‘exploration’ with secret option number three: drink alcohol. Any potential development of earlier ideas is cast away in favour of an entirely new one in the closing act of the film; instead of bothering about drugs, and whether or not they should be legalised, we should all just get wasted because that’s a much better way to do things. There is also the slightly sinister overtone that the film’s own ‘Old Forester Statesman Whisky’ is now available for you to purchase.

At the end of the day KTGC does offer up a few funny moments and enjoyable action pieces that merit some praise. The problem is these moments are interspersed between scenes that have dialogue that ranges from cringe-worthy to dull, and performances by excellent actors that just feel off. The pacing and tone are all over the place which also contributes to the feeling of confusion surrounding the film’s theme and the ideas it attempts to explore.

If you want to just switch off and watch a film that does not require you to think much and has some pretty visuals (though I haven’t even touched on the – in some cases – dire special effects) then go and see Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Alternatively, you could save seven quid and listen to STAR Radio instead.