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Movie Review

Downsizing is a common worry in our hyper-competitive world. Still, few businesses have experienced the ruthless cuts that Kingsman has.

Kingsman—a high-class London clothier that also serves as a super-secret freelance spy outfit—recently suffered a series of unfortunate (and quite literal) terminations, courtesy of villainess Poppy Adams and her illicit drug cartel. Most of Kingsman's superspies were axed (or, rather, blown up). And picking up the pieces isn't possible; given the itty-bitty pieces they were blown into. The erudite English agency is, for all intents and purposes, gone.

Only one traditional agent—Eggsy, a relatively new member of Kingsman—was left unscathed, joined in the land of the living by Merlin, the Kingsman's IT wizard.

Hey, it's hard to save the world most days. But save it with a skeleton workforce? Yeah, forget it. Even the founders of Kingsman seemed to know when to call it a day. When Eggsy and Merlin pursue Kingsman's last-ditch "Doomsday" scenario—what to do, apparently, if most of the agents have been killed by a nefarious drug kingpin—it leads to a bottle of well-aged Statesman whiskey. Nothing to do now but drink one's cares away, apparently.

But as Eggsy and Merlin empty the bottle, drinking tearful toasts to their fallen comrades, they discover a telltale Kingsman symbol hidden at the bottom. Is it possible that this American whiskey distillery might hold the key to their salvation? Could this quaint Kentucky alcohol emporium hide an incredible spy network, too?! AND COULD THAT STATESMAN HOUSE HARRY, EGGSY'S BELOVED MENTOR, EVEN THOUGH HE WAS APPARENTLY SHOT IN THE HEAD AND KILLED IN THE FIRST MOVIE???!!!

Eggsy's beloved mentor once said that "manners maketh man." I believe that Kingsman's creators have a different motto: "Unbelievably dubious moments maketh movie."

Positive Elements

Eggsy and his creative cadre of covert cutthroats are certainly out to do some good here (even as they do some pretty bad things along the way). In this case, that means saving perhaps millions of lives.

Eggsy cares deeply for his friends (both inside and out of Kingsman) and, especially, his girlfriend, Princess Tilde. He wants to do right by her, and when it looks like his duty as a spy might force him into a compromising situation (more on that in Sexual Content), he protests mightily and tries to handle it as ethically as the (admittedly ludicrous) scenario allows him to.

Naturally, he risks his life at times, as do others. Indeed, one character makes what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice. ('Course, considering that this film brought back at least two apparently dead people, you never know.)

Spiritual Content

We see a wedding in a church. One of Poppy's evil henchmen is given a new robotic arm, which Poppy has nicknamed "Arm-a-geddon." Someone says, "God help us all." A song lyric includes the words, "almost heaven."

Sexual Content

As mentioned, Eggsy is in a steady, sexual relationship with Princess Tilde. When Eggsy's about to leave for "work," Tilde suggests she'll reward him later: "If you save the world, you know what that means," she says.

But to save the world, the forces of good will have to track the girlfriend of an evil Poppy henchman. And to do that, apparently, they'll need to use a condom-like sheathe (meant to be worn on the finger, actually) and put it in contact with a particular mucus membrane (accessed through her vagina).

Two agents are tasked with the duty, and both flirt with the woman. But she takes a particular shine to Eggsy, leading him into her boudoir. Eggsy isn't keen on sleeping with someone behind Tilde's back, so he calls Tilde for permission: Tilde withholds that permission unless she receives a promise from him that they'll be in a permanent, committed relationship from then on. Eggsy balks and Tilde hangs up.

But duty still calls, and Eggsy eventually makes out with the woman (who's shown in her bra and panties). We see his hand near her underwear. Before sexual contact is made, the camera zooms closer still, CSI-style, then provides an internal glimpse of the tiny tracking device being inserted into the woman's anatomy.

When Eggsy excuses himself to urinate, the woman invites him to do so over her.

A male spy lies around and dances in underwear. Another guy strips off his shirt. Elton John—a captive of Poppy's—blows an air kiss toward a male spy.

Violent Content

I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to work for Poppy. We see her introduce a new employee to the team: His first official duty is to take the guy who recruited him (he apparently violated some undisclosed policy) and stuff him into a huge meat grinder. (Shredded clothes shoot out one vent while ground meat piles out of another; his legs stick comically out of the top.)

Then the new guy has his teeth (painfully) filed down, his fingerprints (painfully) excised with a laser and is forced to endure a (painful) tattoo procedure, wherein a circle of pure gold is seared permanently into his skin. (Seems a odd that Poppy's organization would take such literal pains to eliminate any identifying marks on employees, then brand them with a super-identifying golden hoop, but whatever.) When that's all done, the guy returns to Poppy, who promptly serves him a burger that (it's suggested) is made from the meat from the guy who's just been shredded.

And that's what happens to a fellow in Poppy's good graces. Those who run afoul of Poppy are sometimes literally torn apart by her mechanical dogs ("Benny" and "Jet") or stuffed into her aforementioned meat grinder. Other occupational hazards include being shot, stabbed or blown up.

She even treats her customers terribly: Her illicit products have been laced with additional drugs that unleash a terrible disease. First, the victim's skin grows lined with blue streaks. Then, after a time, they lurch into spasms (which looks remarkably like dancing). Then they're paralyzed: When that paralysis reaches a certain point, their eyes explode and blood oozes like a fountain out their noses. (We see the disease become gorily terminal at least three times.) We learn that millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, have been stricken with this semi-self-inflicted plague.

But Poppy's far from the only one killing and hurting here. Eggsy and other good-guy spies shoot, stab and sometimes blow up others. Eggsy snaps someone's neck in cold blood, and he may purposefully give someone a fatal overdose.

Several frenetic fight scenes involving fists, feet and all manner of fighting implements. We see arms (both regular and mechanical) ripped off. Someone gets sliced in half by an electrified lasso. Another person (besides the one already mentioned) is tossed in the meat grinder. Others are apparently skewered by a gigantic pair of scissors. Someone nearly drowns in a flooded room. Dogs are threatened with guns. Elton John knocks someone out with a piano lid and kicks another person in the face with a sequined platform boot. We see Harry's horrific eye wound a couple of times.

Crude or Profane Language

Characters utter about 75 f-words, another 20 s-words and pretty much every other swear word you might know, including "a--," "b--ch," "d--n," "h---," "p--s," "pr--k," "d--k," "f-g," as well as British crudities such "bloody" and "b-llocks." God's name is misused at least four times, once with "d--n," while Jesus' name is abused twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

In The Golden Circle, an illicit drug cartel goes to war with a prominent whiskey distillery. So yeah, there's a little drug and alcohol content here.

Let's begin with the drugs. Poppy apparently grows, manufactures and distributes everything from marijuana to meth to heroin to crack cocaine, and we see her products occasionally. A bag of weed sits on a table where Eggsy and his friends are gathered. One of Eggsy's friends apparently smokes a bong. Princess Tilde tokes a joint.

Poppy is furious that her product is outlawed. She fumes over the addictive properties of alcohol and sugar in comparison to the comparatively "benign" substances she peddles—losing sight of the fact that she's made her drugs 100% lethal, I guess. Her master scheme is to force the United States to legalize drugs. And as the film goes on, the telltale blue streaks on people's faces, makes it clear how many people use Poppy's wares, from expected victims like one of Eggsy's friends ("I told you that s--- would kill you," someone tells him) to high-level government officials (who says she needs chemical help to work the 20-hour days demanded of her).

Meanwhile, the Statesman whiskey company—a multi-billion-dollar operation, we're told—sells its wares without legal constraint, and whiskey flows through the organization's veins. Agents are codenamed everything from Champagne to Whiskey to Tequila (their IT specialist goes by the moniker Ginger Ale); whiskey is present and quaffed at every meeting; the organization's secret hideout is accessed by a massive whiskey barrel.

[Spoiler Warning] Poppy's activities trigger some ancillary villainy. The President of the United States secretly wants to allow those afflicted with Poppy's disease to die, thus eliminating the country's drug problem. "Let the junkie scum go down in flames!" he says. An agent within Statesman also wants Poppy's plan to succeed: Without drugs to dilute the market for mind-bending substances, he reasons, the stock for Statesman should go through the roof.

Eggsy and Merlin get drunk drinking a bottle of Statesman whiskey in honor of their dead friends and coworkers. Harry and Eggsy quaff a martini. Eggsy drinks a couple of drinks at a Kentucky bar—glasses of whiskey the waitress calls "martinis." People chew tobacco. Champagne, leader of the Statesman spy organization, dips his finger in whiskey and brushes it against his upper lip regularly—an effort, apparently, to smell the liquor all the time.

Other Negative Elements

Eggsy escapes from a tight spot through a disgusting sewer tunnel, returning home covered in brown, smelly filth. (He asks for a kiss from girlfriend Tilde, who almost acquiesces.) Later, in another tight spot, he excuses himself to urinate, and we see him sitting on a toilet (though fully clothed and just talking). Someone talks about a bowel movement.

Conclusion

If I had one word to describe Kingsman: The Golden Circle, what would it be? Good? Bad? Terrible?

Let me bypass all those descriptors in favor of another: frustrating.

Look, I have a certain soft spot for James Bond movies. I watched the television versions of them with my dad. My grandma was a huge Bond fan. And so in spite of the films' gratuitous content and questionable morals, subconsciously I associate the superspy with good family times.

The Kingsman movies are, on one level, witty Bond homages, filled with nods to 007 and his array of improbable-but-insanely-cool gadgets. The fight scenes are well-choreographed exercises in outlandish extremes. And sometimes, these movies offer unexpected messages in maturity.

But here's the thing: Both Kingsman movies stuff in insane amounts of objectionable content. Sure, that's partly to augment the Bond-turned-up-to-11 vibe, but it also undercuts whatever positives we might plumb here. It's nice when Harry tells his younger protégé, Eggsy, that he sees in him a fine man who's reached his potential. Much less nice is watching Eggsy snap the neck of a villain after the villain has clearly been subdued. In the real world, this would be cause for a murder trial. In The Golden Circle, it's just good fun, I guess.

The language here is abysmal. The violence is insane. A sex scene turns extraordinarily, if rather clinically, intimate. And then, if that wasn't enough, The Golden Circle dares to moralize in the midst of this controlled chaos. It wants to preach not just on the perils of drug use, but about the war on drugs itself—even as it's not exactly sure what it wants to say about it. Drugs are terrible! But maybe not so bad! Everyone does them! And what about alcohol, huh?

Kingsman's makers may have forgotten that, whatever charms these movies have, it's in complete and utter escapism, which is wholly defeated by their incoherent moralizing.

Kingsman movies are inherently messy in every which way they can be. The Golden Circle ups the anty and creates another mess of its own making. This film has a license to ill.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Taron Egerton as Eggsy Unwin; Colin Firth as Harry Hart; Julianne Moore as Poppy Adams; Mark Strong as Merlin; Halle Berry as Ginger Ale; Pedro Pascal as Whiskey; Channing Tatum as Tequila; Jeff Bridges as Champagne; Edward Holcroft as Charlie; Hanna Alström as Princess Tilde; Bruce Greenwood as President of the United States; Emily Watson as Chief of Staff Fox; Elton John as himself

Director

Matthew Vaughn ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 22, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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