7.0 out of 10
Colin Firth as Harry Hart
Directed by Mathew Vaughn
Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review:
What worked in Kingsman: The Secret Service worked like gangbusters. What didn’t… well, what didn’t thudded like a lead balloon. There is a spirit to the first Kingsman, a sense of fun, silliness, and irreverence that made that movie succeed. Like the Roger Moore James Bond films, it knew what it was doing and knew how to play with the audience. Sometimes the silliness went overboard, or the jokes were a bit too inappropriate. But the ratio of good to bad was much more skewed to the good side.
That ratio is challenged somewhat in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It’s not as good as the first, relying on the goodwill from that first movie to carry over without offering much in the way of anything new. Instead of a secret British agency based out of a tailor shop, we get a secret American agency based out of a whiskey distillery (of course). We get the same kind of villain as Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine, who was squeamish when it came to violence, with Poppy (Julianne Moore) who serves up good old fashioned homestyle mothering (when she isn’t mulching up her hired assassins into a meat grinder). Both have ulterior motives for their villainy, and maybe even a kind of moral superiority. Their plots for world domination both play on current events and ideas, but while the first film was more subtle, Kingsman: The Golden Circle has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
What the second film does have in abundance, and what makes it work when it does, is the relationship and camaraderie between Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Harry (Colin Firth). Yes, we saw Harry die in the first film, and the specifics of his return are best left in the film, but The Golden Circle is at its best when it stays focused on these two. I do admire the ad campaign this time around; they held back on the degrees of involvement of the various new cast members – some of the cast aren’t around nearly as much as the ads suggest, and others are in the film far more than is apparent.
Poppy is the head of an international drug ring – THE international drug ring, to hear her tell it, and the Kingsman organization has been a thorn in her side for too long. Poppy manipulates things to her advantage, and Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) find themselves alone, with only a clue of a mysterious second organization based in America. That organization, the Statesman, is headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who decides to help the beleaguered Eggsy and Merlin out. Assisting them in this are agents such as Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal, channeling either Burt Reynolds or Norm McDonald on Saturday Night Live, depending on the moment). But it’s unclear who to trust in the Statesman, and even among Eggsy’s closest allies. The world is running out of time, and if Eggsy doesn’t stop Poppy, millions will die.
Here’s where the trouble comes in. Much of The Golden Circle is just riffing and repeating the first one, including some fairly unsuitable jokes (there’s one particular moment that out-problematics that end joke from the first film). The relationship between Eggsy and his girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström from the first film) is portrayed in a good light, and there’s an interesting reversal to Eggsy when it comes to his suave, seductive ways when trying to get information from someone that feels like a direct reflection of James Bond’s more amorous nature, but then it ends with a scene that is bound to offend quite a few people in the audience. It’s pretty gross, if I say so myself. This one isn’t for kids, for sure. When The Golden Circle isn’t doubling down on unfortunately sexist jokes, it’s stacking up on the silliness. The sequence in the church from the first film is repeated, ad nauseam, in practically every action sequence, which renders the thrills of that scene into inertness. It’s fun when you see it the first time, a bit exhausting when you see it the seventh.
Still, there is fun to be had here, and devout fans of the first will find a lot to like. Eggsy and Harry have an interesting give-and-take this time around; Eggsy in many ways is now the gentleman leading the inexperienced in the mission, and Egerton and Firth have always had a good chemistry together. The Golden Circle is at its best when centered on that relationship. There’s also a wonderful supporting role that, while played for laughs, finds just the right level of fun and silliness that made the first film work so well. It’s probably already been spoiled for most people, if you look at the cast list above, but the ad campaign isn’t hiding it either. Those moments in the film are a blast. A rocket blast, if you will.
What more can be said? Matthew Vaughn relies too much on CGI that looks painfully obvious, the tone is muddled throughout, but there is still a lot hat fans will appreciate. The Golden Circle isn’t as good as the first, it’s true. But for die hards, it won’t matter. Hopefully a third one (if it happens) will be a lot more focused. But Kingsman: The Golden Circle still has enough gas in the tank to keep it moving forward, for now.