Kingsman: The Golden Circle | Matthew Vaughn | September 22nd, 2017
In 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service gave us a look at what the Bond franchise could be if it wasn’t “so serious”. It was a spunky action movie that was pure dumb fun. After watching the first one, I never really thought about where a sequel could go. It all seemed pretty wrapped up. I liked the movie well enough, but it never really felt like a classic action movie. The first Kingsman was ludicrous and very tongue-in-cheek. Kingsman: The Golden Circle dials up the insanity up to 11. Sometimes with great success, but it’s just not enough to totally out-crazy the original.
Set a few months after the first, Kingsman: The Golden Circle begins with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) getting into a fist fight and car chase with a former Kingsman agent gone rogue. It’s a nice Bond throwback of having a high-octane action sequence right out of the gate. Shortly thereafter, the Kingsman headquarters and agent residences are bombed and completely destroyed. Only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) were fortunate enough to walk away unscathed. The evil mastermind behind the bombing is Poppy (Julianne Moore), an international drug lord who loves 1950’s Americana and is certifiably insane.
Her goal is to make all drug trade legal across the globe in order to become a legitimate and powerful businesswoman. With their home base destroyed, Eggsy and Merlin find a clue that leads them to the United States version of Kingsman (appropriately called Statesman). Together, the Statesman and Kingsman teams try to track down Poppy and keep her from unleashing a toxic strain of drugs in order to hold the entire world at ransom.
Julianne Moore is mostly a joy to watch as Poppy. She seems like she’s having the time of her life by playing an absolutely ridiculous villain. That being said, some of her dialogue is so awkward and cringe inducing, and it took me out of her scenes. Poppy lives in a Cambodian jungle fortress that has a 50s-style diner, bowling alley, and a hair salon. She talks sweetly, but is ruthless when it comes to betrayal and the incompetence of her henchmen. There’s at least two scenes involving Poppy with meat grinders that are brutal yet somehow hilarious. It reminded me of the car crushing scene from Kick Ass.
The Statesman are played by veteran actors like Jeff Bridges (Agent Champ), Halle Berry (Agent Ginger), and Channing Tatum (Agent Tequila). Unfortunately, these roles are mainly cameos, with each actor only getting a few minutes of screen time each. Their code names are all alcohol. The only Statesman that goes on a mission with the Kingsman is Agent Whiskey (Game of Thrones‘ Pedro Pascal). He’s a welcome addition to the group, but it never really feels like the Statesman add a whole lot to the story.
One of the biggest reveals, which was unfortunately also revealed in the trailer, is that, yes, Colin Firth is back as Harry Hart. It’s not a trick, or a cyborg or clone. It’s really him, and the clunky explanation of how he survived a gunshot to the head is quickly explained with no fucks given. It honestly cheapened the film for me a bit. It felt a little TOO comic-bookish for me, personally. While I did enjoy having Colin Firth back for another round, his presence really wasn’t needed. There’s a subplot about him losing his memories and being sloppy with his actions. In the end, he redeems himself, but in the most predictable way that anyone could see coming.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘s action scenes are pretty great, yet again, but there’s nothing that even comes close to the church shootout from the first film. What stands out, is the parts of the film that feel somewhat grounded and actually emotional. There are a few good scenes with Eggsy and Harry that are genuinely sweet. Unfortunately, these scenes clash with the tone of the absolutely bonkers set pieces. There’s one scene where Elton John fights off robot guard dogs while Eggsy battles a man with a cybernetic arm. Speaking of Elton John, he’s in this movie more than Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum combined, and he is absolutely the best thing about the film. I knew Elton could be funny, but man, he’s gold in every scene.
This sequel feels like a bunch of ideas that might get to be more fleshed out if they make a third one. The Statesman never really get to shine, and the globe-trotting just feels small this time around. A lot of the sequences are clearly on sets, so it lacks any resemblance to the real world at all. If anything, this felt more like where the James Bond series could have gone after Die Another Day, but with way more self-awareness at the insanity of it all.
I had a lot of fun with Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It’s a solid late summer action movie that made me laugh more than most comedies lately. It’s been a nice few weeks for R-rated movies that have brought a surprising amount of laughs (I’m looking at you, IT). The movie has its structure problems, and man, some of the dialogue is crazy over the top (even in comparison to Sam Jackson in the first one). That being said, I walked away just marveling at the pure chaos of it.