When “Kingsman: The Secret Service” hit theaters three years ago it felt like the spy movie we needed.
Yes, the third act was a mess and that church sequence ugly to the core. Up until then “The Secret Service” combined spy movie swagger with sartorial excellence. These heroes looked good saving the day, bruv.
Along comes “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” and the franchise’s promise all but fades away.
It’s hardly the only disappointing spy film, though. Hollywood loves the genre, but not every entry can be worthy of James Bond. These four films proved so toxic you’ll wish you could unsee them.
1. Austin Powers in Goldmember
The third, and least, chapter in the funny franchise shows what happens when commerce overrules creativity. Yes, the second “Austin Powers” made a mint, all but forcing the creation of a third entry.
That proved … unfortunate. New leading lady Beyonce looks out of her depth. The movie within a movie featuring Tom Cruise as Austin Powers flopped. And the running gags that powered the franchise up until then suddenly looked old and wheezy.
2. Leonard Part 6
Bill Cosby could do no wrong once NBC’s “The Cosby Show” conquered prime time television in the ’80s. So it was only natural for Hollywood to give him a potential franchise all its own. The comic superstar was no stranger to the big screen, but his pop culture clout had never been hotter.
That ended fast.
“Leonard Part 6” proved the kind of belly flop few stars could survive. This ham-fisted spy comedy drew withering reviews and scored a pathetic $4 million back in 1987.
3. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Who? You mean the character in the extreme sports spy saga that made a wafer-thin impression on us? Yes, that film. In today’s Hollywood, even tepid fare can spark a franchise. Even though the follow-up, Ice Cube’s “xXx: State of the Union,” made a pathetic $26 million because someone thought we needed more Xander Cage.
Spoiler Alert: Not so much.
This year’s “Return of Xander Cage” nearly doubled that movie’s box office yield (on a budget of about $85 million… yikes). We still didn’t need this “Return,” from its ego-stroking hero to its clunky storytelling.
4. Fair Game
This 2010 flop ($9 million) arrived with all the gravitas progressive Hollywood could muster. Why? The movie attempted to prop up former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame’s case against the Bush administration.
Propaganda rarely produces thrilling art. “Fair Game” confirmed that, with talking points that overwhelmed the story whenever it mattered most. Casting Sean Penn was another unforced error. The Oscar winner’s political baggage weighed the leaden story down even more than necessary.