*On the mark: This is Mark Fields’ 10-year anniversary as our film critic.

Julianne Moore’s unhinged villain highlights Kingsman sequel

The stalwart James Bond spy franchise has sparked several game attempts at parody over its 50-year dominance of worldwide box office numbers, though at times the series itself became cartoony enough to defy spoofs (I’m looking at you, Pierce Brosnan). But now that 007 has returned to a more serious tone with Daniel Craig as Bond and Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, it seems there is an opening for a rollicking take-off. In 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service was successful enough to prompt a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Based on a comic book called The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the two Kingsman films imagine a nattily dressed independent spy ring hidden beneath a Saville Row tailor shop. The first film showcased Colin Firth as a most unlikely superspy with Taron Egerton as his working-class protégé, Eggsy. Eggsy is back in The Golden Circle as a full-fledged and confident agent when the entire Kingsman network is inexplicably wiped out by a mysterious and ruthless foe. Eggsy eventually finds his way to the U.S. to link up with a parallel American secret spy group, Statesman, and they set out to defeat the threat.

But don’t make the mistake of taking any of this too seriously. The Golden Circle is played by its cast and its high-octane director, Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Stardust), purely for fun. And fun it is, from the outlandish and frenetic stunts to the elaborate production design to the tongue-in-cheek performances and finally to the extended and hilarious cameo of a certain flamboyant British rock pianist.

In addition to Firth (who drolly riffs on his prim cinematic image) and the affable Egerton, the cast also includes Mark Strong as the capable technician enabling the Brit field agents; a surprisingly dressed-down Halle Berry as his American counterpart; Channing Tatum; Pedro Pascal, and a number of other familiar faces, all obviously having a lark with this amusing trifle of a cinematic thriller. 

That said, the stand-out is Julianne Moore as Poppy, the nefarious drug lord behind all the mayhem. Her unexpected take on a spy supervillain is a thoroughly off-kilter cross between Goldfinger and Donna Reed (ponder that for a moment!).

The stunts are well-done and deliciously over the top, and the whole film is lushly eye-catching. Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t aspire to much more than being wittily and thrillingly entertaining, but sometimes that just what the arch nemesis ordered.

Also appearing at nearby theaters in October: Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic directed by Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve (10/6); Marshall, featuring Chadwick Boseman as the esteemed Supreme Court Justice in an early civil rights case (10/13); and Suburbicon, a George Clooney-directed thriller from a script by Coen Brothers (10/27).

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.