Ralph Fiennes is Orlando Oxford in the origin story for the Kingsmen secret organization. He delivers a solid performance as we have come to expect from his numerous roles. Matthew Vaughn is back as director and co-writer. This is a prequel nobody was asking for, but it was released day and date on HBO Max, so the barrier to entry was as low as possible. I enjoyed the first film in the franchise, up until one joke that violently took me out of the film at the very end. The second entry was still entertaining if not overly gory. This third film feels highly disconnected as it steps foot into multiple genres.
The film starts its dramatic arch in the first scene with the death of Oxford’s wife while his son, Conrad, Alexander Shaw, and later Harris Dickinson, watches. The tone of the father-son relationship is set by this tragic event and promises that Orlando made to his wife at her death. The film tries to dip back into that storyline multiple times to bring in some real emotion, but it is scattered throughout the film. Dipping in and out feels like a polar plunge each time as the transitions are not smooth.
The first two films were full of action where the blood splatters across the screen. The gore factor was turned down but there are still multiple action scenes, most are hand-to-hand combat. The most over the top is fighting Grigori Rasputin, Rhys Ifans. Rasputin is hypersexual, bordering on pedophilia at times, and a ballet dancing monk. He shows off his dancing skills in a fight with the Oxford men. The scene by itself is wonderfully over the top and why not make Rasputin the Mad Monk as over the top as possible. Other fight scenes are choreographed well. Brad Allan was involved before his untimely death.
There are mystery elements like a James Bond film sprinkled in to further complicate the film. Some historical facts are sprinkled in to try and ground the mystery in reality. I had forgotten, or possibly never learned, that the head of Britain, King George, Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Russia, Tsar Nicholas during WWI were all first cousins. They are all played by Tom Hollander, which is a bit confusing. The mystery parts of the film are sprinkled throughout, but just like the drama, the film does not flow smoothly in and out of them.
The film was entertaining enough for at-home viewing. Its release had been long delayed by Covid, debuting in UK theaters in December and widely panned by critics at that time. American audiences had to wait until February but did not have to venture out. If you are looking for some of the magic of the first film in the franchise, you will be disappointed. This may be the end of the Kingsman franchise due to poor box office performance and that would probably have been true without the pandemic. This film is trying to do too much and uses scene changes to switch between three different films.