“Kingsman: The Secret Service” caught many by surprise when it was released in 2014. It was a cheeky riff on the James Bond genre, when a lower-class Cockney lad got recruited into his ranks and used his street smarts and brute force.
However, the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” shows the seams on this franchise. The film is a cynical pastiche of meaningless pop nostalgia wrapped around a nonsensical plot, and sprinkled with repulsive sexism.
In “Golden Circle,” Kingsman agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) seemingly has it all together as a gentleman spy, cozied up with his Swedish girlfriend (Hanna Alstrom), before it all falls apart at the hands of a kooky villain. Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a drug lord camped out in a neon paradise in the Cambodian jungle, decides to hold the world hostage by infecting drug users with a mysterious virus in order to push through legalization of all drugs.
Since the U.S. president (Bruce Greenwood) decides to play chicken with Poppy, only the private security force of the Kingsmen, with an assist from the Kentucky-based Statesmen, can bring Poppy’s evil plot down. Like the Kingsmen, the Statemen are stereotypes of their nation, with Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Champagne (Jeff Bridges) sporting dude-ranch cowboy duds and swinging lassos.
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The screenplay dehumanizes women, who are merely helpers and sex objects, subject to horrible degradation.
Claiming fun fantasy doesn’t excuse the ugly behavior of “Kingsman.” In this world, nothing matters. The film espouses a potent strain of candy-colored nihilism, where every nostalgic cultural symbol becomes lethal. It’s a gas-guzzling engine fueled by the shallow pop references, strung together in a stupid plot, peppered with adolescent body humor.
‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. 2:21. AMC Classic, Fayette, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Paris drive-in, Richmond, Winchester.