As we rejoin hooligan-turned-superspy Eggsy (Taron Egerton) in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, he’s enjoying the Kingsman life and getting to grips with meeting the regal family of his new girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hannah Alstrom) – who you may remember from that controversial and clumsy ending of the first film.
After the world of the Kingsman comes under major fire, him and Merlin (Mark Strong) are forced to head to Kentucky and team up with the whisky-brewing Statesmen, their American equivalents, to bring down psychopathic drug cartel owner Poppy (Julianne Moore).
Everything you remember from the first film (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is back – to good and bad effect. Glasses and gadgets? Check. Cartoonish action with a tongue-in-cheek soundtrack? Check. Taron Egerton winking? You bet.
All the best stuff that came as such a pleasant surprise the first time around appears again here; a lot of it is what carries the sequel and keeps you interested, but sometimes the retreading of the same motifs means you can’t help but think that maybe they’re running out of ideas already? The villain’s nefarious plot, the bar scene, the training exercises – so much pops up, and whilst it’s sometimes given a fresh spin, a first sequel shouldn’t feel this formulaic.
Maybe this is a case of second album syndrome? The first film was such an unexpected joy that it was always going to be hard for Kingsman: The Golden Circle to live up to it.
The way Matthew Vaughn pushed the envelope in terms of violence and sexual humour was another key thing that made the first Kingsman stand out – again, both for better and for worse. He’s pushing the boundaries again here, with a certain scene at Glastonbury festival the most memorable for moving from tongue-in-cheek to downright uncomfortable (and, some would say, non-consensual).
We’re all for a bit of vulgarity, but there’s occasions in this movie where it’s just not necessary – and more importantly, not even funny. There’s a lot of random plot choices that make the script nowhere near as refined or pacy as the first one.
And – spoiler, although not really if you’ve managed to see even a poster for the film – bringing Colin Firth back as Harry Hart will cause a bit of an eye roll. It would have felt much braver to stand by the events of the first film and move on the story without him, giving much more gravitas to the grief of his fellow agents. The sequel uses his storyline to try and tug on heartstrings, but there hasn’t been enough work done to set it up for maximum impact.
There is good stuff, including some nice character development for Eggsy, and Taron Egerton is as fun and charming in the role as ever, but he has the potential for so much more.
The action is also still so slick, stylised and an injection of energy into the film with a cracking soundtrack, and the use of the lasso from Pedro Pascal‘s Whisky adds another layer of interest, but there’s nothing groundbreaking added to this that wasn’t done just as well (if not better) in the original. The opening action set piece involving some London taxis is a true joy, and the mildly ridiculous final act fight is probably the best of the film – and saves it’s 3rd star that we’ve given it here.
One of the most frustrating elements of Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the way it brings in reels of big names for the American cast, but how most of them are given barely anything to do. This is most evident with Channing Tatum – it’s reported they had minimal time with him on set and it shows. He gets one good scene and then is pretty much forgotten about.
Halle Berry, too, is vastly underused. Her character Ginger Ale is clearly the brains of the operations, the equivalent of Mark Strong’s Merlin, and whilst she gets some good bits of bonding with him, there’s not much more for her to do other than tapping on keyboards and staring at screens. Jeff Bridges is also more of a cameo than anything.
It’s Julianne Moore’s villain Poppy that gets the most screen time out of the new US cast. She does fine, is convincingly sweet on the outside whilst being diabolical on the inside, but the end-of-the-world plan she attempts to deliver is remarkably similar to that of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Valentine in the first film. Despite being head of the world’s biggest drug cartel, Moore is also somewhat confined to her tropical, off-the-grid headquarters, decreasing the scale of the film.
Oh, not forgetting – this film is probably the weirdest thing you’ll see involving Elton John this year. Or ever, actually.
With all that in mind, might it have been more effective to recruit less big names and do a little more with them?
Almost as fun but nowhere near as refreshing as the first, the final act redeems Kingman: The Golden Circle enough for it to receive a 3 star ranking.
You can buy Kingsman: The Golden Circle on DVD and Blu-Ray now.