With modern action spy films becoming serious affairs, the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprise addition, with many praising how it subverted the genre and injected the fun back into it. Kingsman: The Golden Circle brings back a lot of what made the first film so enjoyable—ridiculous gadgets and hyper-kinetic action scenes all wrapped up in a stylish package. That being said, it pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) finds himself on another world-saving mission after several Kingsman agents are killed and their headquarters destroyed. He and fellow surviving Kingsman Merlin (Mark Strong) seek out the help of their American counterparts, the Statesmen, in unraveling a plot involving the Golden Circle organisation.
Returning director Matthew Vaughn and frequent writing partner Jane Goldman get to really expand on the Kingsman world, crafting their own plot and characters separate to the comic book series by Mark Millar. The franchise’s silliness is again its biggest strength (a kidnapped Elton John oddly works), with the technical elements hard to fault. Egerton is the reason it all works so well, playing Eggsy with a sincerity and maturity that shows just how far the character has come from his car-jacking days. While the film tries to do a lot, it doesn’t quite pull it off with the same panache that made The Secret Service so enjoyable.
The film has too many story threads. There’s Eggsy and his relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), the introduction of the Statesmen, the return of Harry (Colin Firth), and Poppy’s (Julianne Moore) quest to legalise recreational drug use. Juggling all these plot lines causes the film’s momentum to stutter at times, making The Golden Circle feel longer than its 141-minute runtime (in comparison, The Secret Service ran at a brisk(er) 129 minutes).
Then there are the characters. Poppy is at first intriguing, but quickly descends into a generic and bland world-dominating villain. Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges are all wasted, and while Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) is given the most screen time of the Statesmen, he doesn’t feel like a complete character. Vaughn has revealed that the initial cut of the film was over three hours long and it appears that a lot of scenes pertaining to Whiskey and the subplot surrounding him may have been excised, resulting in some head-scratching moments. What should have been removed—or rather, not included in the first place—was Harry. His “resurrection” was not needed and contributes little to the overall plot and story development. His presence is a distraction and his recovery to competent agent again happens too quickly.
In saying all of that, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is still somewhat enjoyable. It’s mix of ultra violence and humour is entertaining, keeping viewers engaged with spectacle, if not story. All the elements are there, they’re just too shaken when they should have been stirred.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10