Out on Friday September 22
Matthew Vaughn brings the Kingsman back for a sequel. Shia stars in the first truly great tennis movie. An offally appealing arthouse tale of elusive love. A David Lean masterpiece returns to cinemas.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Borg vs McEnroe, On Body and Soul, In Between, Lawrence of Arabia, and Our Last Tango.
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Kingsman: The Golden Circle
A sequel to 2014’s was an inevitable but welcome prospect. After all, that film did for spies what did for comic-book superheroes, and raked in more than $400m worldwide. Director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman adhered only loosely to Mark Millar’s comic source material first time out, and here they have free rein to go in whichever direction they want.
It’s a shame then that it’s played so safe, lacking the edge that made the first film memorable. It starts well enough, with a deliriously OTT scrap inside a London cab, as Eggsy (Taron Egerton) fends off a familiar assailant. Inventively shot and breathlessly paced, it’s an energising opening that’s brimming with Bond-turned-up-to-11 gusto, swagger and gadgetry.
There are a couple more brash set-pieces to enjoy later, but it’s a while before the pace picks up again, and the main plotline – our hero is forced to go rogue when a crime syndicate targets his fellow Kingsmen – is the well-trodden terrain of recent 007 and Ethan Hunt missions.
Teaming up with Kingsman’s tech support, Merlin (Mark Strong, ever-reliable), Eggsy follows a clue that leads him to a whiskey distillery in the American South, a front for the US-equivalent of Kingsman. Led by Jeff Bridges’ Champ and Channing Tatum’s Tequila, the Statesmen are a welcome addition to the fold, though it’s hard not to mask the impression that Bridges and Tatum were only available for a couple of days’ shooting.
It’s through the Statesmen that Eggsy discovers his presumed-dead former mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), seemingly alive and well. The role fits Firth like a made-to-measure Oxford shoe, but the manner of his return is a bit of a letdown, given the secrecy that has surrounded it. It’s another ‘too safe’ moment in a film that should have taken more risks.
Julianne Moore is great fun as Poppy, a drug kingpin – Vaughn describes her as “Martha Stewart on crack” – holed up in an Americana-styled lair in the Cambodian jungle. But her masterplan stretches credulity in this comic-book world’s internal logic. Nabbing the biggest laughs of all is a very well-deployed Elton John. Mercifully, this is one sequel that hasn’t gone darker. The cast uniformly emit full-beam charm, so it’s never a chore to be in their company.
More problematic is the lack of any real arc this time around. The lad-to-lord transition of the first film is sorely missed, as is the contrast between Eggsy’s working-class background and the highfalutin Secret Service. The Transatlantic team-up just doesn’t offer the same zing. As a result, The Golden Circle often feels precisely tailored when it should’ve been cut a little looser.
THE VERDICT: Fun, fleeting entertainment if you’re after more of the same, but fails to carve out any fresh ground.
Director: Matthew Vaughn; Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong; Theatrical release: September 20, 2017
Borg vs McEnroe
Calling Borg vs McEnroe the first truly great tennis movie may seem like damning with faint praise considering the competition – Paul Bettany/Kirsten Dunst romcom Wimbledon (2004) and… er, that’s about it. But it’s a statement meant at face value.
Exploring the rivalry between imperturbable world number one Björn Borg and volatile contender, John McEnroe, in the lead-up to their legendary 1980 Wimbledon final, it’s a clash of the tennis titans that’s infatuated with the formative psychology of sporting icons off the court.
In 1980, Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) was at the top of his game, and on course to win a record fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. But behind the sweat bands it was a different story. Pre-match superstitions increasingly alienate his nearest and dearest, while suppressed childhood anger issues threaten to derail Borg’s dominance of the sport he’s dedicated his life to.
In contrast, McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) is a firecracker. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, his explosive tantrums make him an easy target for the controversy-hungry media and public, who delight in openly booing him. The pair are perfectly matched combatants – the baseline player and the net rusher, the hot-headed American and nitrogen-cool Swede, the Ice Borg and the Super Brat.
Director Janus Metz (Armadillo) has previous form with the all-time-great tennis rivalry: he helmed an episode of ’90s documentary series Clash of the Titans on Borg and McEnroe, and reunites with writer Ronnie Sandahl for a film that lasers in on the moments that made the men.
The movie jumps back and forth between the 1980 Wimbledon championship and the pair in their youth: Borg is seen learning to keep his career-threatening temper under control, while the source of McEnroe’s rage is left to fester. The thesis: maybe the famous rivals aren’t so different after all.
It’s a compelling case study, and effectively burrows under the skin of Borg in particular. Methodically paced and shot, it perfectly straddles a line between arthouse sensibility and mainstream subject matter, with the match of the century providing a racket-string-tense climax.
But there’s a reason why Borg comes first in that dichotomous title. Sandahl and Metz are enamoured with their Scandi cousin at McEnroe’s expense, dedicating a much meatier chunk of screentime to the Swede. And sops to the tennis-oblivious can come across as patronising.
Not quite a Grand Slam then, but ace nonetheless.
THE VERDICT: A superior sports biopic with a never-better LaBeouf? You cannot be serious! But it only fully gets to grips with the ice-cool Swede.
Director: Janus Metz; Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Sverrir Gudnason; Theatrical release: September 22, 2017
On Body and Soul
More about sweetbreads than sweet nothings, this offbeat but absorbing Hungarian love story (the Golden Bear winner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival) nimbly combines arthouse dreaminess with brutal everyday realities. Possibly the only cinema romance featuring unflinching abattoir action, its tale of lonely Budapest slaughterhouse managers discovering a mystic connection is weirdly compelling.
Veteran director Ildikó Enyedi’s slow-burn dramedy is languorously paced but full of emotional suspense. Heavyweight themes such as loneliness, human-animal bonds and longing are explored with a lightness of touch. Mixing in unexpected elements including a police search for stolen cattle Viagra, a menacing love rival and heart-in-mouth tragi-comedy, Enyedi keeps things unpredictable and deploys an austere, unassumingly beautiful visual style to ensure the genre-mix meshes neatly.
Moody middle-aged exec Endre (a deliciously deadpan Géza Morcsányi) and newcomer Alexandra Borbély’s shy meat inspector are touchingly understated, torn between desire and despair at their daytime awkwardness together. Get your chops around this.
THE VERDICT: This offally appealing arthouse tale of elusive love in an abattoir is a prime-cut, for the strong-of-stomach.
Director: Ildikó Enyedi; Starring: Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély, Zoltán Schneider; Theatrical release: September 22, 2017
The personal is the political in Maysaloun Hamoud’s vibrant, taboo-breaking debut feature, tracking the lives of three young Palestinian-Israeli women – hard-partying lawyer Laila (Mouna Hawa), lesbian DJ Salma (Sana Jammelieh) and devout student Nour (Shaden Kanboura).
The film reveals how patriarchal values clash with the desires of its female characters to lead more emancipated lives.
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud; Starring: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura; Theatrical release: September 22, 2017
Lawrence of Arabia
From Freddie Young’s epic 70mm cinematography and Maurice Jarre’s majestic score to Robert Bolt’s brilliant script and Peter O’Toole’s complex lead performance, this stirring recreation of T.E. Lawrence’s WW1 desert exploits is a ravishing tour de force.
It combines an astute character study with some of the most jaw-dropping images captured on film.
Director: David Lean; Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn; Theatrical release: September 22, 2017
Our Last Tango
German Kral directs a thrilling docu-musical about Argentine tango stars María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, who waltzed to global fame over almost 50 years together even as their marriage fell apart.
Interviews are entwined with dance numbers dramatising key moments in the couple’s life: the result is giddy, meta and soulful, even if the melancholic beats get a little repetitive in the final act.
Director: German Kral; Starring: María Nieves Rego, Juan Carlos Copes, Melina Brutman; Theatrical release: September 22, 2017