Thoughts of a whisky-geek and movie-lover on „Kingsman: The Golden Circle“
Well. I can´t help it. I am a geek, a lover of a certain kind of art may it be whisky, movies or music. I simply care more than some people. I know that and it gave me some trouble on the way but helped me to fully and deeply experience and enjoy many things. Whisky and movies have always been my biggest examples and I would have never thought that these two would clash one day the way they did with a normal night going to the movies.
Me an my girlfriend went out to watch „Kingsman: The Golden Circle“. We were both excited for part two since we loved the first one. And „part tows“ are always a tricky thing, since as a fan you are always afraid of a quick cash-grab and a dull movie in the worse case ruining the whole first one all the same.
With „Kingsman: The Golden Circle“ I fairly enjoyed myself for most of the movie although many things bothered me that I brushed aside to stay in the movie and not to trash it along the way already. The whole „americanizing“ the Kingsman idea felt a bit too easy to me like „ok we need another set, we had the english Kingsman, so what next?“. To me the whole style of the first one lives from the ode to oldschool british-style spy movies like the old Bond movies, so taking it to the US wasn’t really the right choice for me in the first place.
Ok to lets skip all the movie-fan details for a minute and move on to the last few minutes of the movie when for celebrating the victory the boss of Statesman says „We bought ourselves a Scotch Distillery“. One of the last shots of the movie is a Bourbon of Statesman and Scotch of Kingsman that says on the bottle „Glendronach“. I did´t even see it while watching, but my girlfriend silently cheered and told me, since we are both big GD fans (naturally having met at the distillery while I worked there). And that was the point where it clicked. And my mood went down the toilet. I mean yes, we have seen whisky product placement before a lot. Having Kirk and McCoy sharing a 30yo Glenfiddich, Bond having a Macallan in Skyfall and Spectre, yes we´ve seen it all. It never really bothered me, although I don´t really like advertising in movies, since it distracts me from the story sometimes. But yes the story and the adds were always two different things at least! And a „Sony“ or „Nikon“ logo hopping through the screen was never a big surprise for anyone. But I feel its much much more with this movie. Its not just product placement, but the whole structure of the film seems to be made FOR advertising.
Here is why I feel that way. The plot of the movie goes this way: A mad woman (Julianne Moore) has a monopole on drugs around the world and poisons them to blackmail the US government. She kills all the Kingsman and only Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) survive the attack and need to find help. That happens by emptying a bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon leading them to Kentucky where they find the „Statesman“. They are the same as the Kingsman but in the US owning not a tailor (like Kingsman) but a whiskey distillery. The are introduced to one of the Statesman named „Whiskey“ (really?) in a warehouse, he explains the two on them the concept of „proof“ on Bourbon and so on. At this point I (still) cheered for Merlin saying something like „keep your horsepiss you call bourbon which is nothing compared to a good single malt scotch“. Ok so much for the setup. I think we can agree that the movie has a HEAVY whisky-loaded theme. All of this would not have troubled me really if I wouldn’t have been aware of some fact in the whisky industry.
In 2016 the american company Brown Forman bought three Scotch Distilleries (Glendronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh). They own Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Coopers Craft and a couple of other spirits that ALL were represented in the movie (quite obvious standing on the shelves on the plane in one scene). So yes it is obvious that Brown Forman as a whole company had an exclusive deal with the studio since there are no non-BF brands in the movie. BF released the „Statesman Bourbon“ in time with the movie, so created a whole new whiskey (coming from Old Forester) itself. At the same time Glendronach released a Kingsman Special Edition.
So more than enough proof (pun intended 😉 that this movie is heavily influenced by Brown Forman. „So whats the problem“ you might ask. Well I still think there is more. STATESMAN seems to me like a nickname for Brown Forman representing itself in the movie. Jeff Bridges says it in the movie „We just bought ourselves a distillery“, what they did by buying Glendronach and the other two. Having all the brands in the movie and Statesman Whiskey becoming real its hard to shake of the image of Statesman BEING Brown Forman. Which brings us back to the story itself. Statesman fights a drug baron. So its spirits vs. drugs. In the movie itself a character (Tequila, oh yes have I mentioned all Statesman characters are named spirits?) says something like „If no one takes drugs anymore, the profit of spirits will explode“. Well yes, it makes perfect sense to make the drug guys the bad ones and the alcohol guys the good ones. Yes yes there are some lines like „alcohol kills bla bla“. But the last line from the character „Ginger Ale“ to „Whiskey“ is „you might want to keep on drinking spirits from now on!“ (after almost dying of poisoned weed).
So here we are now. A movie that was almost certainly completely designed as a 2,5 hour long advertising for whisky, whiskey and spirits itself. And since the movie itself seemed to me like a very weak version of the first one, I can not shake of the feeling that I payed a lot of money to see a very clever add for whisky. And that is something I feel goes way to far. If I have to watch adds, I should not have to pay for it. If you have never watched the movie „Thank You For Smoking“ do so! In this movie a lobbyist of a tobacco company makes a deal with a movie company to make smoking sexy again on the big screen. This smells badly like exactly the same thing.
The director Matthew Vaughn in fact admits that he wrote the script for the product: “This is authentic storytelling with the product in there,” Mr. Vaughn said. “I think this is the future of advertising.”
Well. If this is the future of advertising that means it is the future of film as well.
What are your thoughts of the movie and cooperation with Brown Forman?