The King’s Man

“It’s not fighting, it’s dying.”

“This plot is all by-the-numbers.”

Dialogue like this aptly describes this prequel to the Kingsman franchise. When it first started in 2015 with The Secret Service, it reinvigorated the spy genre with a wicked sense of humor and a gratuitous playfulness. 2017’s sequel, The Golden Circle, somewhat forgot what made its predecessor so memorable and entertaining and sadly, this prequel to the whole shebang marks a steady decline.

The King’s Man takes place during World War I. It stars Ralph Fiennes as an aristocrat who endures a personal tragedy that ignites in him a desire to stop global conflicts before they get out of control.

Harris Dickinson plays his son, Conrad, who is determined to fight in a war that involves England, Germany and Russia. However, Fiennes is adamant to keep him out of battle. Djimon Hounsou and Gemma Arterton costar as Fiennes’ servants.

Eventually, Conrad does go off to fight and the conflict reaches up to the hands of Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) who wants to dominate England and its allies.

The first two movies contained action sequences that ranged anywhere from comically violent to just plain violent without any sense of the aforementioned playfulness, but this movie only has snippets of the energy and kineticism of the others.

We do get the obligatory shootouts and martial arts mixed with some swordplay, but it’s only intermittently cool and stylish.

As for the story, it feels dull, murky and depressing without any humor or characters that have any real emotional depth. Not to mention the world-building of how the Kingsman universe isn’t as intriguing as it should be.

Action movie franchises need that sense of creativity and consistency in order to keep us invested. The John Wick series is a prime example of that.

This latest entry just gives us mindless action, a silly story and characters who barely surpass one dimension.

Grade: C-

(Rated R for for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.)

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