Among the many things to like about 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was its penchant for over the top, fun violence. Often, the action sequences of the film seemed to be pulled right out of its comic book inspiration. Who can forget the church scene from that film? Stylized to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s iconic rock anthem “Free Bird”, Colin Firth’s head exploding rampage is one of the more memorable scenes of recent memory. How would a sequel work? Matthew Vaughn’s style is certainly not apt to hold anything back as we’ve seen in Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘s predecessor, but also in Kick-Ass. It’s a sentiment sorely missed from his sequel which often feels like the director’s unique style is being held hostage.
And yet, The Golden Circle still manages to extract enough fun, silliness and over-the-top spectacle to give us a throughly entertaining entry in one of cinemas more exciting new franchises. In The Golden Circle, we reuinte with Eggsy and Merlin and eventually, as the trailer for the film disappointedly spoiled, Harry aka Galahad. Eggsy has taken over the role of Galahad and from the outset an old enemy comes back to haunt him. Frequently the action is CG heavy and features some dizzying camera work. But, unlike other films to use this technique, Vaughn is able to inject a frenetic energy into it all.
Taron Egerton once again delivers a charming performance in the role that put him on the map. Egerton has a James Bond-esque type suave mixed with the comedic timing of Chris Pratt. It is his charm that elevates this from being a run of the mill spy series. It’s anything but that. Among the returning cast, Mark Strong fits the bill as the tech guy with a little more humor to his character of Merlin this time around. The returning cast has solid chemistry to mix in with a plethora of new characters introduced.
The Golden Circle introduces the Kingsman to their American cousins, the Statesmen. Led by Jeff Bridges, the Statesmen, much like the Kingsman are given code names that coincide to the Knights of the Round Table, the Statesmen are given code names of liquor. Bridges is Champ (short for champagne) and plays the leader of a group that includes Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) as Agent Whiskey, and Channing Tatum as Tequila. Tatum is unfortunately, underused. If Tatum is the main draw for you in this film, you’ll surely be disappointed. However, the rising star makes excellent use of what little screen time he does have.
Our heroes try to defeat Poppy played by a well-cast Julianne Moore. Poppy is a manically, mentally unstable woman who is running the worlds largest drug cartel. While Poppy herself is a weak villain in terms of the context of the story, she has some wonderful moments of dialogue including a memorable scene with the films chief cameo, which I won’t spoil. Poppy pollutes the world with tainted drugs whose side effects affect millions of people worldwide. As the movie goes on, Poppy’s evil plot doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. However, it does spurn some hilarious dialogue between the President (played by Bruce Greenwood) and his advisors.
Though the film is longer than the first, its frantic pacing ensures it never overstays its welcome. Where the movie does falter at times, is the need to rehash some popular jokes from the first film. Chief among those, is a less violent sequel to the infamous church sequence from the first film. The films conclusion can also get a little exhausting at times as well with Vaughn’s aforementioned disorienting camera work. Nonetheless, even when the film drags, it’s never long enough to take you out of it.
The Golden Circle doesn’t do much to improve upon its smash hit antecedent. The dreaded “sequelitis” sets in to some degree. However, contrary to what other critics have said about the film, the world isn’t played out just two films in. Rather, Vaughn’s desire to dig deeper and his passion for the material shows, and unlike most sequels, continues to build upon this zany and insanely fun world. Like any good franchise, Kingsman: The Golden Circle expands upon the world while still possessing a singular focus on its characters. Not every sequel has to be better than the first film. If you had a blast with the first, you’ll enjoy this. But The Golden Circle won’t thrill the detractors of the franchise.
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Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Rated: R (for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material)
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Starring: Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn