Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
In the 2014 spy/action extravaganza Kingsman: The Secret Service viewers met Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a troubled kid possibly headed for a life of crime. He is pulled out of his regular life by Harry Hart (Colin Firth, a Best Actor Oscar winner in 2011 for The King’s Speech), a secret agent whom Eggsy’s father had given his life to save when Eggsy was just a small child. Harry sees something in Eggsy and enters him into training to join the super-duper secret spy agency known as The Kingsman. The Kingsman then worked together to battle a psychotic megalomaniac played by an exceedingly bizarre Samuel L. Jackson. Lots of swearing and violent action scenes ensued.
Now, three years later, we have the sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. This time, Eggsy and his fellow agents must team up with their American counterparts, The Statesman (which includes characters played by Channing Tatum, Halle Barry and Jeff Bridges, among others), to battle a psychotic, attention craving drug kingpin played by Julianne Moore (who appears to be having a very good time). Lots of swearing and violent action scenes ensue.
I generally try to stay away from the phrase “if you liked (blank), then you’ll also like (blank),” but if you liked Secret Service, you’ll most likely also enjoy Golden Circle. The sequel is exactly like the original in terms of tone and pacing, its sense of humor is the same and so is its level of action. There are also tons of references to the original strewn throughout. I thought the original was okay, but with some serious issues and this film is the exact same way. They feel like fun, escapist romps that have been bloated to excess. As are, they’re okay; edited down, they could probably be pretty good.
The first film had a dull lead character, was overly long and far too explicitly violent to be the fun adventure it wanted to be (there was one scene in particular, a massacre in a church, that was extremely uncomfortable to watch). However, it had a really good performance from Colin Firth, an enjoyably eclectic cast and the fascinating strangeness of Jackson and his sword-legged assistant (Sofia Boutella).
Golden Circle fixes some of those problems and then comes up with some new ones. Taron Egerton’s Eggsy is given much more to do this time around and actually becomes kind of likable which makes the story a little easier to get into. The violence also seems to be toned down a tad. There may actually be more action in this film, but it feels more cartoonish and less bloody (with a couple of exceptions). Also, like in Secret Service, the cast is good and seems to be having fun with the ridiculousness of the story they are trapped in.
Unfortunately, it is even longer than the already too long original (Golden Circle is 135 minutes without the end credits) and its villain is not all that interesting (Moore is fine, but she doesn’t hold a candle to the fascinating bundle of quirks played by Jackson in the first film). There is just so much going on in this movie with so many subplots that it takes away from the ones that work (I can think of multiple characters with entire subplots that I would have no problem eliminating wholesale from the film).
Also, the best thing about the first film, Colin Firth’s performance as the gentlemanly Harry Hart, has been completely squandered this time around. I won’t divulge what he does, since his appearance is technically a spoiler (though one that has cheerfully been revealed in all the advertising materials), but his story arc does not allow him to demonstrate his considerable charm.
The Kingsman films (loosely based on a comic book series created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons) know exactly what they want to be and, as a member of the audience for one of these films, you know exactly what you are in for. These days, sequels aim to be bigger and louder than their predecessors. That is certainly the case with The Golden Circle. If you’ve seen the original, or even just a trailer for this one, you already know what you are going to get here. It was okay (slightly worse than The Secret Service). However, if the people behind the franchise keep trying to entertain through excess and absurdity, audiences may find each successive film too familiar. They’ve established the characters and action, now it’s time to start focusing more on story and less on weirdness for its own sake.
3 out of 5
Taron Egerton as Eggsy
Colin Firth as Harry Hart
Mark Strong as Merlin
Julianne Moore as Poppy
Channing Tatum as Tequila
Halle Berry as Ginger Ale
Jeff Bridges as Champagne
Pedro Pascal as Whiskey
Edward Holcroft as Charlie
Hanna Alström as Princess Tilde
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn