Is there a difference between an action-comedy and a comedy-action movie? Last night I watched Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and while I really enjoyed it, it did not live up to the first film. The first Kingsman movie was more action with comedy mixed in, the second one was a lot heavier on the comedy. What was formerly tongue in cheek nods became over the top, bordering on silly and juvenile. Kingsman: The Golden Circle had quite a different tone than Kingsman: The Secret Service. I previously compared Kingsman to the different eras of the James Bond films and I know the Kingsman films were created initially because the writers and director noticed how serious films in the spy genre had become, so maybe this tonal shift was intentionally done to mimic how the Bond films changed as they transitioned from Connery to the later Moore films. Octopussy could have been a really good film, but Roger Moore’s Bond ends up running around foiling the bad guys dressed as a clown…
The film starts off pretty much at top speed, with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) involved in a car chase and fight pitting the new Galahad against failed recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) from the last film. Yes, Charlie miraculously survived the mountaintop battle where Merlin activated the chips in all of Valentine’s cronies to save the world, but now he has a cybernetic arm and is working for The Golden Circle, the largest drug cartel in the world. The Golden Circle is run by Poppy (Julianne Moore) who is tired of living in seclusion away from the prying eyes of the law. She wants to legalize the drug trade around the world so she can be recognized as the successful, legitimate businesswoman she is. They’ve poisoned their own drug supply creating a plague known as “Blue Rash” and will release the antidote worldwide when the president of the United States legalizes drugs. The Golden Circle need to eliminate Kingsman (or should that be Kingsmen?) so the plan will succeed. Unfortunately the president wants all the drug users in the world to die, so he can win the war on drugs, and is just stringing Poppy (and the world along). With the Kingsman’s headquarters destroyed, and all agents except Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) killed, they have to follow their doomsday protocol which leads them to Kentucky, home of Statesman (or is that Statesmen?). Statesman is the American version of Kingsman, and instead of their codenames being knights, they’re drinks. Eggsy and Merlin arrive at Statesman and are attacked by “Tequila” (Channing Tatum) who thinks they’re there to rescue the lepidopterist, a man who was clearly an agent for some organization, but has lost his memory after they rescued him from a church riot where he had suffered a gunshot to the head…
I was really glad to see that Colin Firth was back as Harry Hart, and not just in a cameo or flashback, but I really wish they hadn’t shown him in the trailers at all. It could have been a great surprise, and a great reveal, but apparently someone in marketing doesn’t like giving surprises to the audience. The two organizations team up and after Harry is found and his memory is restored, they battle Poppy’s bad guys across the globe in search of her headquarters and the antidote. The action comes fast and furious and the stunts, gun-play and fight sequences seek to top those in the previous film (which were pretty high to begin with).
I will admit that The Golden Circle wasn’t as good as The Secret Service. The story was strong enough and the action was impressive, and overall the film was very entertaining, but it was not on the same level as the first one. It had very big shoes to fill and expectations to meet, and it came close, but was not without its flaws. It seemed like there were a few too many “big names” getting in on the action given the success of the first film. Jeff Bridges played Champagne, or “Champ”, the “Arthur” of Statesman, Halle Berry as Ginger Ale was their “Merlin” and you had Channing Tatum dropping in to be affected quickly by Poppy’s virus. Of the big name actors, Halle Berry had the most significant amount of screen time, and her character wasn’t involved in any of the action scenes. There clearly will be a third Kingsman movie, I just hope they don’t water it down like other franchises have by filling it with cameos and stars in small, filler roles. All that aside, I did love how they worked Elton John into the story. Poppy had kidnapped Elton John while Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine had been kidnapping and recruiting celebrities during the events of the first film. She figured his kidnappings were the perfect cover for one of her own, and she now had Sir Elton prisoner to perform for her whenever she wanted. Elton John was hilarious in the film; getting some fight scenes some comedy scenes, the obligatory musical number, and he delivered what is probably one of the best jokes of the entire film.
Because of how much I enjoyed the first film, I wanted to see the sequel as soon as possible and that means a trip to the theatre, and I’m glad that I did. I went with a friend and it was nice to have someone to discuss it with afterwards and to share the laughs and the whole experience with. We’re not prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but we did both notice how the language was amped up compared to the first film. We also noticed that we were the only ones laughing at a lot of things too. Perhaps our humour is heightened compared to the rest of the audience, or perhaps our senses of humours are just a lot more twisted than the audience. My friend said she overheard someone muttering something about not getting two and a half hours of their life back as they were leaving, which kind of made us laugh. The comment seemed to come from a very laugh free area of the theatre. You know, regardless of what they did, they’d never get those two and a half hours back anyway. They could have taken a nap, went for dinner, killed a dragon, at the end of it those two and a half hours would still be gone. I enjoyed the night out, and wouldn’t have wanted to spend those two and a half hours any other way….
Bottom Line: I was a little surprised at how the film wrapped up, I really expected it to end with Harry becoming the new Arthur.
Another of the films that was up for Best Picture this year, Hell or High Water tells the story of two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who set out to rob some banks, but are being tracked by soon to be retired Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges. Tanner (Foster) is a career criminal, and recently released from prison. Toby (Pine) is the “good” brother but he teams up with Tanner to rob a series of banks to pay off the various liens against their family farm, monies owed to the very same bank chain they are robbing. On the side of the law is Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) a cranky, old Texas Ranger who delights in the chase almost as much as he does insulting his half-Comanche, half-Mexican partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) with as many racial stereotypes and slurs as he can think of. Despite this, Hamilton is a good cop and good at his job, soon he and Alberto are on the trail of a pair of mysterious bank robbers. The bank robbing brothers are also good at their job, laundering their money in a casino across state lines but each robbery gets more and more dangerous as the take, the stakes and the violence all increase.
This was a very good heist movie (which I always enjoy) and it had a good dramatic core story. Hell or High Water was very well acted, and Jeff Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His character was humourous, intelligent, and a great foil to the violent, and erratic Tanner. Toby was also a great character, and also a clever opposite to his brother. Though their reasons are leaning towards noble, the brothers’ methods certainly are not, but it does make the whole film a little grey, at times I didn’t really know who to root for. At times I wanted the brothers to get caught (they were the “bad guys” after all) and at others I really wanted to see them get away with their scheme, and beat the bank. The film did a really good job showing the poverty and the emptiness in those small Texas towns, which also kind of helped feed the conflicted feelings I had towards the robbers and the banks.
Full of action, full of drama, brimming with interesting characters, dark humour, and an engaging purpose behind the plot. I really had a good time with this film!
Bottom Line: Remember how I questioned how Michelle Williams could be nominated for Best Supporting Actress with minimal screen time? Jeff Bridges’ nomination made perfect sense to me, because he was in roughly half the film.
I hadn’t been hearing very good things about R.I.P.D., but then someone had told me they had heard it was like a cross between Men In Black and Ghostbusters. I hoped that it would be, because that sounds like awesome meeting awesome. How could you go wrong? Well, you should never ask that question, should you?
Ryan Reynolds plays a Boston cop named Nick who is killed in the line of duty by his crooked partner (Kevin Bacon). Instead of moving on to the afterlife, he’s pulled into service by the RIPD, the Rest In Peace Department, deceased law enforcers who continue the job after their Earthly deaths by making sure the dead go where they’re supposed to go. Some of the dead hide on Earth and they need to be brought in. Someone though is masterminding a plot to reverse the natural flow of souls and rain the dead back down on Earth. Nick is partnered with Roy (Jeff Bridges), an old west lawman who is showing the ropes to the younger recruit. That’s pretty much the plot as I remember it, and it was fairly entertaining for a while.
One neat thing about the film was their use of “avatars”. Once someone joins the RIPD they have a different appearance on Earth. “Nick” is now an old Asian man (played by veteran actor James Hong), and Roy appears to be a beautiful blonde woman played by Victoria’s Secret model Marisa Miller. Unfortunately that was about the only thing that really made this movie stand out. The acting was passable (maybe a little disappointing given that it had Jeff Bridges in it), the jokes were okay, and the action was kind of fun. The effects weren’t overly good, but they weren’t horrible either. The story is of course adapted from a graphic novel, further reinforcing my thoughts that Hollywood has really run out of original ideas. Remember the days when movies inspired comic book adaptations and not the other way around?
Bottom line: just re-watch Men In Black.