An absolute mess of a prequel to a stylish action comedy.
The original “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” directed by Matthew Vaughn, was a wildly entertaining action movie that introduced us to Taron Egerton, and what an exceptional actor he is. Unfortunately, its sequel, “The Golden Circle,” was on my list of the worst movies of 2017, because of how people were thrown in the meat grinder and turned into burgers, and how crass and overblown it was.
And now, we have the prequel, “The King’s Man,” which brings us back to the organization’s roots, but can’t seem to bring on the style or laughs. In fact, it’s an ambitious mess that relies on too many CGI effects, too many F bombs, and too much boredom. It’s a good thing I haven’t published my Worst of 2021 list yet, because this will be on it.
The film begins in 1902 the obligatory death of the beloved wife of Orlando Oxford, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), and his promise to protect his son Conrad from any danger. 12 years later, the boy (Harris Dickinson) wants to join WWI, but his father tells him “no,” which is routine. Eventually, Orlando realizes that Conrad is ready to join his secret club. The Kingman club that is, also consisting of his servants and friends Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou).
There’s an evil organization of assassins, including the Russian mystic Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and the Austrian charlatan Erik Jan Haussen (Daniel Brühl), whose leader has to be hidden in shadow until the final act. He has his plans to have Germany take over England, and to prevent America from entering the war. That’s when the Kingsman need to take action.
There’s also a boring subplot that lacks the heart and valor of Sam Mendes’ “1917,” when Conrad switches places with soldier Archie Reid (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to fight in the war behind his father’s back. I can’t give you the results, but it’s supposed to trigger the emotions. I use the term “supposed” loosely.
Fiennes is the only actor to keep his tone and dialogue in balance, but he was recently better as M in “No Time to Die.” All these other fine talents (also featuring Tom Hollander in 3 roles, Stanley Tucci, Matthew Goode, and Charles Dance) are left to scurry about, and they’re not given any values or consistence.
I sat in a theater with about 15 people or so, and I heard no laughs. Maybe I heard one chuckle or maybe it was a cough. I don’t know. I didn’t find anything funny. I don’t even think “The King’s Man” was trying to be funny.
Is this supposed to be a form of comedy? Fiennes jumping out of a plan with a piece of landing gear that he calls a parachute, flying about, and crash landing on an icy wall. He wakes up and a goat has managed to climb down two more icy walls just to lick him.
Or how about this? Ifans as Rasputin comes to a big party with two stylish women like he’s attending the Oscars or a release party of some kind. This prequel doesn’t remember the meaning of style or laughs or action, but rather let the CGI effects and green screens do the work for us. This movie bored me nearly to death.
If he’s making a “Kingman 3,” then Matthew Vaughn needs a reminder about why the first movie was brilliant, because both the sequel and prequel have nothing to offer.