Kingsman: The Golden Circle is directed by Matthew Vaughn. The film stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alstrom, and Elton John. This is the sequel to the 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service (click that link for the review of the first film).
A year has passed since the events of the first Kingsman movie, in which the secret organization thwarted Richmond Valentine’s scheme for global domination. Eggsy is struggling with his newfound relationship with a Swedish princess, and remains in mourning over the death of his mentor, Harry Hart. But it is not long before a criminal organization hacks into the Kingsman database and attains the organization’s secrets, resulting in the deaths of nearly all of their agents. Eggsy and Merlin retreat to America and are introduced to Statesman, a similar American organization. Pooling their resources and knowledge, our heroes must do battle with Poppy Adams, a psychotic woman who is hatching a plot to legalize all illegal drugs.
I went to see the original Kingsman: The Secret Service at an advance screening, going in not expecting much, only to be blown away by its mixture of stylized, over-the-top action violence and surprisingly unflinching sense of humor. The film definitely did a good job gearing me up to want to see the sequel, which has arrived nearly three years later. Kingsman: The Golden Circle, while coming up short in a few areas, proves to be a surprisingly good sequel, even if it does largely deliver more of the same.
The tone of the movie strikes the perfect balance between laugh-out-loud humor and excessive levels of violence, much as its predecessor did. The Kingsman movies are largely spoofs/homages of spy films, though not quite straight-up parodies/comedies either. The cast and crew have found the best of both worlds and brought them together nicely a second time. That said, I would not recommend seeing this movie without seeing the first one; you’ll have no idea who the characters are or what is going on if you go in “blind.”
Once again, the cast is top notch. Taron Egerton once again steals the show as the young and inexperienced Eggsy, who gets many of the film’s best moments; this guy is quickly becoming one of my favorite up-and-coming actors with each new film he is in. Colin Firth returns despite supposedly being killed in the first film (not really a spoiler since he’s in multiple ads for the film) and manages to deliver another stand-out performance. We get a great new villainess in the form of Julianne Moore’s Poppy Adams, a seemingly-peaceful 1950s housewife type with a psychotic streak, though she can’t quite touch Samuel L. Jackson’s eccentric lisping bad guy from the first movie. In the cast, only Jeff Bridges is wasted; his appearance feels like a glorified cameo without much substance. Surprisingly, Elton John gets more screen time than Bridges, and Sir Elton's scenes rank amongst the film’s most hilarious moments.
Part of why the Kingsman movies succeed is because, despite the comedic and overly violent nature, we genuinely grow to bond with these characters and what they have to go through. While a few characters from the first film are cast aside rather quickly early on, the principal cast manages to keep our attention and make us want more. Sharply written and always entertaining, this is an ensemble of characters I hope to see in future films as well.
Okay, as much as I enjoyed the film, it is not perfect. At nearly two and a half hours, it is a bit excessive (though I would never say I was "bored" at any point of its duration). Roughly half an hour’s worth of material could have been trimmed from the final product. There are also simply too many characters and subplots going on; the Statesman agents are the biggest victims here, with too many not getting the proper screen time or development (though there have been rumors of a Statesmen spin-off film, which could remedy this). As the movie is overplotted and overlong, the climax drags on considerably longer than it should.
As with the first film, I feel obligated to warn potential moviegoing parents that this is NOT a film for kids. There are plenty of scenes of violence that make PG-13 comic book movies look positively tame by comparison, and explicit language and situations throughout. I wouldn’t recommend the film for anyone below middle school age, at the very youngest.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle overcomes its shortcomings with more of what made the first movie great, including a great cast, excellent performances, and fun and entertaining overall execution. If you liked the first film, it is a safe bet that you will get more of what you loved about it in the sequel. If you did not, the second installment is not going to change your mind.
Strongly recommended, but see the first film first.
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