4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD copy; 2017; R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, profanity throughout and some sexual material; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube and Vudu
Best extra: Multi-part making-of “Kingsman: Inside the Golden Circle”
JAMES BOND meets “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” in Matthew Vaughn’s sequel to ‘70s spy takeoff “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
It’s safe to say the 2017 gadgets surpass anything Roger Moore’s Bond or Napoleon Solo ever used. They’re supremely high-tech. Everyone who saw Harry Hart’s amazing umbrella action in the first film knows the score.
Happily, Harry – again played by the incomparable Colin Firth – returns. He used to be dead, but thanks to Kingsman’s American cousins and a special nano-tech gel, he’s back, umbrella in hand.
That’s part of the great fun of director/co-writer Vaughn’s world, and he never stops. The series is so over-the-top, by the time we’ve adjusted to the first surprise, he’s on to the next. Also, he’s on sturdier footing with “Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle.” Despite its international popularity, the first suffered uneven footing between the first two thirds and the last. No. 2, taking up a few months past the end of the first film, never misses a beat.
Harry’s pupil Eggsy Unwin, played by Taron Egerton, is now a full-fledged super-spy with the codename “Galahad.” (Kingsmen are named for the King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.) A terrific opening sequence finds Eggsy confronting his arch enemy Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), former Kingsman apprentice gone bad. Charlie is in the employ of Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), queen of the drug cartels. Poppy is the richest woman in the world, but she’s trapped in her South Asian lair. Poppy Land designed as an homage to “American Graffiti” and “77 Sunset Strip” replete with a ‘60s-style diner, beauty salon, movie theater and more. It’s built on top of an ancient ruin. Like the majority of “Kingsman’s” sets, it’s not CG; it’s a functional, to-scale set. That it’s built outside London is absolutely gobsmacking.
Poppy intends to take over the world drug trade. She’s poisoned her stock, holding the antidote ransom until the President of the United States signs an agreement to legalize all street drugs. Governments will earn tax revenues and Poppy will reap an even bigger fortune and be able to leave her isolated compound.
At 141 minutes, we get a lot of bang-pow-crash for our hard-earned bucks. Action begins in England, the Kingsman’s domain, but travels to America. “When I made ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service,’ I very much wanted to bring back the celebration of Britannia and being British,” Vaughn says in the nine-part making-of, “Kingsman: Inside the Golden Circle.” “Now I felt it was time to do that for America.”
America’s secret-secret service is Statesman, located in Kentucky. Kingsman’s front may be fine tailoring; Statesman is hidden behind an elite distillery. Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) find themselves in need of the Statemen’s help. The American agents have their own formula for code names. The chief is Champagne, called “Champ,” played by Jeff Bridges. Channing Tatum becomes Tequila; Halle Berry plays brainiac mixer Ginger, and Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones,” “Narcos”) is a Burt Reynolds' Smokey-and-the-Bandit type, Whiskey, using a lasso and whip in addition to a pair of six-guns.
“Cinematically, it’s the perfect relationship for conflict, but warmth inside the conflict. I was very excited about getting to play with a new box of toys, but this time it was all American toys,” Vaughn says.
The 4K package from 20th Century Fox comes with a 4K disc, a Blu-ray disc and a digital HD code. The Blu-ray looks excellent for its format, but the gadgetry, costumes, action scenes and amazing locations are made for 4K viewing. Detail is razor sharp; there is plenty to see from patterns and textures on clothing to environmental and mechanical features. Complexions are natural in both formats, however, HDR provides more nuance from fine lines to shading. Black tones and depth are outstanding, and present further detail creating a more realistic image.
Unfortunately, cinematographer George Richmond (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Children of Men”) sometimes uses a gold wash on scenes, which can be distracting on 4K and Blu-ray. Just don’t let that get in the way.
The 4K offers both Dolby Atmos for height speakers and a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Blu-ray only has the 7.1 track. There’s not too much difference between the two, and both provide a dynamic, immersive sound experience with exceptionally clear dialogue – Vaughn and crew made sure we catch every word – and a huge variety of effects from ambient sound to explosions and gunshots. Unique to “Kingsman 2” are the whoosh and crack of Whiskey’s weapons. Since action is nonstop, expect the effects delivery to be the same.
The score and arrangements are by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson, with pop tunes provided by Elton John, who appears as himself, Poppy's prisoner. Who knew Elton was such a good comic actor? His timing is perfect. The color dynamics and detail of his rainbow bird costume are incredible.
Bonus features are only available on the Blu-ray. In addition to the detailed making-of, find “Black Cab Chaos: Anatomy of a Killer Chase,” the opening sequence, and “Kingsman Archives,” images of concept art, costumes, sets and more can be played manually or through auto advance. There are plenty of interviews with Vaughn, his crew and the cast, as well as tech-detail and anecdotes.
This blend of sci-fi and fantasy received weirdly bad press when it opened, enough to make us wonder if we all saw the same movie. Internationally, it did very well. “Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle” is a fun ride, never meant to be taken seriously.
Film editor Eddie Hamilton says: “When Matthew wrote the first film … he always had a trilogy backbone in mind …which would show Eggsy’s becoming a spy, and then being a spy, and then dealing with a spy being married and what that means to him – the benefits and problems.”
We’re ready for installment three!
— Kay Reynolds