Swedish Actor Hanna Alström and Kingsman: The Golden Circle: A Second Chance to Get It Right


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The first Kingsman film holds significance for the Not Left Handed Film Guide because the review of that film is by far the widest read post on the blog. As of today it has been viewed 11,230 times. It’s not as if it went viral but the next most popular pieces I’ve done are a feminist reading of Ex Machina and the article about measuring the portrayal of women in films that was the origin of The Ripley Factor both of which have barely clocked four figures.

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I’m fairly sure the reason why my write up of the Kingsman: The Secret Service got all the attention was not because its shrewd analysis of gender politics though. I don’t think people googling the expression ‘strong presentation of women’ was what lead to all the hits. Read this passage yourself and see what you think:

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Swedish actress Hanna Alström appears in the film as a character called ‘Scandinavian Princess’. Despite her nondescript title she is a forthright woman who stands up against the villain, showing brave defiance and real strength of will. It is initially a strong representation of women but all of this is then totally undone by her final scene in which she is suddenly reduced to little more than a sex object for the sake of a cheap gag. This is not the film’s high point. I think the script, written by a woman don’t forget, is trying to make a statement about how the old James Bond films always had the female lead bedded by the hero at the end. As it is though the unnecessary close up of her naked butt pretty conclusively undermines any satirical intention.

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I’m sure by this stage you have come to the same conclusion as me. Sadly it was almost definitely people searching the web with the words ‘Swedish actress’, ‘sex object’ and ‘naked butt’ that lead to the post’s success. Still, all readers are welcome.

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I felt then as I feel now that the moment in question is so misjudged it almost ruins the rest of the movie. Generally Kingsman part 1 is an immensely enjoyable comedy spy romp with cool characters and excellent action but this bit was just unforgivably demeaning. So it is that I headed off to see Kingsman 2 hoping that this time there wouldn’t be any salacious nudity and seedy sexist jokes but thinking that if there was and I wrote about it then at least I might be able to increase the readership of my website again.

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Well there is good news in this respect. There is nothing in Kingsman: The Golden Circle that is quite as crass as the handling of Hanna Alström’s character in the first film. Not quite anyway, there is one particular moment that is certainly very smutty and a little distasteful but it doesn’t involve any nudity and it isn’t sexist in the same way. Even more importantly though the use of Hanna Alström’s character in this new movie goes some way to compensating for the mistakes made before. First off she is given a name this time round which is a significant step forward, she is called Tilde. Secondly she is now a very important part of the story and her and the protagonist are actually in a stable and loving relationship rather than her just being a quick prize for the conquering hero at the end. What I didn’t talk about in my review of Kingsman 1 was the line that Alström spoke to Taron Egerton’s Eggsy when promising herself to him and this part of the script is actually referred to twice in the screenplay for this film, to good humorous effect. It seems that director Matthew Vaughn is aware of his previous misstep with the character and, while not backing away from it, is consciously attempting to address it which is certainly a good very thing. 

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With regard to the rest of the film it is all business as usual. In the same way there is nothing to equal the lows of its predecessor though, there is also nothing to equal the highs. Kingsman 1 has an absolutely brilliant fight in a church where Colin Firth’s ultimate gentlemen spy brutally takes down around a hundred attackers and despite some well shot rambunctious action scenes there is nothing here that is as good. Colin Firth’s Harry Hart was shot in the head at point blank range immediately after that escapade but quite wisely Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman have realised that a Kingsman film would be nothing without him so he is back from the dead. There is immense pleasure in seeing Firth’s Hart back in action and fans of the first film are going to like this one too. 

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While undeniably the main draw Firth is still well supported by the brilliant character actors around him. Egerton remains a compelling lead and Mark Strong is perhaps even better this time round. There are a number of big name newbies too, many doing little more than cameos, and while everyone is good enough this is a bit of a mixed bag. Michael Gambon and Jeff Bridges barely register as the new leader of the Kingsman (Michael Caine is not back, he stayed dead) and their American counterparts The Statesmen. Bruce Greenwood is good as a corrupt US President, a role there is a real market for right now. Emily Watson appears in a role you wonder why an actor of her stature would take. Halle Berry is an effective combination of brains, glasses and a nice suit jacket. Channing Tatum isn’t in it anywhere near as much as the marketing would have us believe and Cara Delevingne’s big sister Poppy is the reductive sex object this time round (maybe she’ll have a bigger part in the next film). Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones and Narcos leaves his mark as a lasso and whip wielding Yankee super spy and Julianne Moore is having fun as the villain but I can’t help feeling somebody else could have done more with the role. Moore is evidently not a natural comedian. Surprisingly the supporting player that leaves the biggest impression is Elton John. His portrayal of himself is a gag they really persevere with and by the end it pays off nicely.

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In most respects then Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not as good as Kingsman: The Secret Service. It isn’t as fresh or as audacious and with its robot dogs and submarine cars it often felt a little too much like a Spy Kids movie, but it’s fun. Most importantly though, neither is it as chauvinist. 

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The Ripley Factor:
Other than the small steps forward with Ms. Alström, the gender politics at play here are not particularly shiny. Roxy, the most significant female from the first Kingsman film, is marginalised here and Halle Berry’s character is code named Ginger Ale where her male colleagues are Whiskey, Tequila and Champagne. They are the alcohol, she is the mixer; they are the main ingredient, she is the accompaniment. 

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There is also the aforementioned smutty moment to consider. Vaughn and Goldman are clearly looking to be a little shocking here, pushing the boundaries of acceptable treatment of women on film again. Playing this game is always going to offend some people and this time there seems to be no intention in highlighting the failings of others in this respect as there arguably was with the unfortunate Alström moment from before. Let’s just say the measures they go to to spy on Delevingne’s character in this movie are an extreme invasion of her privacy and a real violation.  

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Julianne Moore’s Poppy is a formidable villain but her plan doesn’t actually make much sense so I’m not sure how smart she is meant to be. Kingsman is demonstrably a man’s world.

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