Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Channing Tatum. Rating: 5 (out of 10)
The original Kingsman, something of a surprise hit in 2014, created the atmosphere of a tight-knit, protective family (albeit a highly armed, bloody and dysfunctional one).
Adding a new branch to the family tree is not a bad idea. Planting plot kudzu – which trails and meanders and swallows up everything in its path that was good and healthy – is.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is energetic, bawdy and baubly, thanks to an injection of star power in the sequel. The film has gone international, hopping the pond and adding a stable of American secret agents to the mix, plus one odd rock-legend cameo. What it leaves behind is common sense, purpose and a bloody good time.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) finds himself almost completely alone after a cataclysmic attack on the Kingsman shop (thankfully Merlin, Mark Strong’s character, survives intact). In order to rebuild, and possibly save the world while they are at it, Eggsy and Merlin are forced to turn to an American arm of the secret agent network, Statesman, which is led by Jeff Bridges and features not as much of Channing Tatum in a cowboy hat as you would think, based on the marketing.
The first film had Eggsy’s Pygmalion-type transformation, this film has the gaping cultural crevasse between Britain and the United States, punctuated by the fact that American agents have a penchant for cowboy hats, bourbon and lassos rather than the bespoke suits, whisky and weaponized umbrellas of the Kingsman shop.
Based on Mark Millar’s comic book (the non-Kick-Ass one), The Golden Circle sees Galahad (Colin Firth) miraculously back from the dead and Halle Berry with little to do but stare at a computer screen.
The bad guy this time around – refreshingly – is not a guy at all, but Julianne Moore, having a grand time as (among other things) Poppy, an evil drug queenpin who plans to kill off a chunk of the population with poisoned pharmaceuticals.
Any feel-good feminism engendered by that casting choice is ruined by an extended ick scene involving the seduction of a young woman and the strategic genital placement of a surveillance device. (You would think that director Matthew Vaughn would’ve learned his lesson after the hue and cry over his misplaced anal sex joke in the last film.)
Vaughn knows action, having utilized it in everything from 2005’s Layer Cake to X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass and the Kingsman original; as a study in perfectly tailored action sequences, The Golden Circle is right on target, if you don’t mind even more CG than was previously in the mix.
Like a teenager just come into his trust fund, the sequel is excess gone berserk. Start with a well-over-two-hours running time, wholly unnecessary to tell a tale this slim. The plot feels like it’s been ripped to bits and thrown back together in a jumble, not unlike the product of that meat grinder that Poppy keeps handy.
You’ll find that you do need a reason to justify the body count and all that splattering grey matter onscreen, impressively choreographed though they may be. And after the bespoke bedlam of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, you may need more than a little coaxing to give the next inevitable film in the series a fighting chance.