Spy on Drugs
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the 2017 sequel to 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service with Matthew Vaughn returning as director. Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, and Mark Strong return to reprise their roles from the first film. Newcomers to the cast include Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges.
The most natural instinct for a sequel of a highly successful action film is to be bigger and badder than before, while always running the risk of being more of the same and adding almost nothing new to the film's fictional world. History shows us that the sequels that offer us new material and rightfully expand upon the story told in the previous installment are the ones that come out the most successful. I point the reader to Aliens and Terminator 2 for the best examples. Since Kingsman: The Secret Service was a smash hit, it should come to the surprise of absolutely no one that a sequel was going to come around sooner rather than later. But like it did alongside John Wick, Kingsman: The Secret Service proved that the winning-est recipe for action films today is to be stylish and fun, qualities more than capable of picking up the slack for story smarts.
Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman team up again to write the screenplay, and once again they go after a world issue that they take no deliberate effort in exploring fully. This time, instead of overpopulation and how the human race is poisoning the Earth, the Kingsman are now going after the war on drugs. One year after the events of The Secret Service, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is living happily with Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hannah Alstrom) and has taken on the title of Galahad in memory of his mentor Harry Hart. One night, Eggsy is ambushed by Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), a rejected Kingsman candidate who lost his arm and vocal cords during the previous film. Eggsy manages to escape after a chase with Charlie, but the severed cybernetic arm of Charlie is able to hack into the Kingsman security system in the car that Eggsy was driving. All of Kingsman's vital information is then placed into the hands of Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the head of the world's largest drug cartel who is hiding in a 1950's style hideout in the middle of a jungle somewhere. Poppy destroys the Kingsman headquarters and wipes out all of their agents established in Britain. The only two survivors are Eggsy and Kingsman's tech guru Merlin (Mark Strong). Eggsy and Merlin follows Kingsman's Doomsday protocol, which leads them to the secret American spy organization, Statesmen, which is posing as a Bourbon whiskey distillery in Kentucky. Upon meeting Statesmen members Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), Eggsy and Merlin discover that Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is alive after being supposedly shot to death in The Secret Service, but is currently suffering from amnesia. As Eggsy, Merlin, and the Statesmen attempt to help Harry get his memories back, they must also band together to stop Poppy and her terrorist organization, The Golden Circle.
It is not a major spoiler to reveal the return of Colin Firth as Harry Hart. After all, he is on the poster and the trailers show you Eggsy and Merlin's reactions when they see him for the first time. Harry Hart's return comes to dominate the majority of the film's plot, and it's the watermark of a low point that I'll get into more detail about later. I had to take a bit of time to come to terms about how I fully felt towards Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and my conclusion is that I compare the film to eating junk food. There are a lot of parts that aren't good, but you're still going to enjoy consuming every bit of it.
- The action is as riveting as it was in The Secret Service, and what Vaughn does improve upon is the creativity of the Kingsman's supply of weapons. Eggsy uses a briefcase that contains a machine gun, missiles, and is able to turn into a protective shield when opened. One of the Statesmen, Jack Daniels/Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), uses a lasso that is capable of electrocuting its target. Like before, Vaughn makes sure the action stays in or near the center of the frame, using a wide range of energetic tunes to complement the punching and shooting.
- Now I turn back to that thing about Harry Hart dominating the film's plot when he comes into play. This leads me to discussing how The Golden Circle mightily struggles with handling its characters and various subplots. Harry deals with amnesia until Eggsy is able to snap him back to reality. Unfortunately, Harry's skills are rough around the edges, evident by a bar fight that is a glaring repeat of the bar fight from The Secret Service. There is no magical moment to help Harry regain his fighting prowess. He just...happens to get back to form, a prominent hole in the script. And if you got excited about the idea of Channing Tatum joining the Kingsman for some kick-ass action, think again, because Tatum is put into a deep freeze for the rest of the film after we learn he has become an unfortunate victim in Poppy's scheme. Eggsy gets his relationship with Princess Tilde strained when he tells her that part of his mission involves getting busy with Charlie Hesketh's ex-girlfriend. No, this doesn't go much of anywhere, in case you were wondering. And, finally, one more thing about Harry: he gets a hunch that one of the Statesmen is working as a double agent. The problem is how the film right then and there basically tells us, "Heads up, there's a twist coming involving a good guy actually being a bad guy." When the twist actually does happen, well, I'm hesitant to even call it a twist, because you can see it coming from miles and miles away, and the movie inexplicably told you about it beforehand.
- Julianne Moore is out of place as Poppy, who mostly acts like a cheerful mom that has her own cooking show on the Food Channel and is gloating every single minute of it. Moore is a fine actress that has too many credible roles to her name to count, but here, she is completely unconvincing. Moore has come out and said she based her characterization of Poppy off of how Gene Hackman characterized Lex Luthor in the early Superman films. The difference though is that Hackman successfully convinced us that Lex Luthor was a crafty mastermind who was fully capable of world domination, whereas Moore makes Poppy seem like she got spoiled with otherworldly power and let it all go to her head. I could see the role of Poppy going to someone like Charlize Theron, which would open the door to Poppy participating in a fight scene.
And for some odd reason, The Golden Circle has Elton John portray himself, stuck as a captive in Poppy's 50's jungle lair. There's a scene where Elton John attempts to escape, and he knocks out two of Poppy's henchmen using exaggerated punches and kicks. Why is Elton John of all people here? Because I have no idea whatsoever.
I'd be wrong if I said I disliked Kingsman: The Golden Circle, even though it offers plenty of nagging things to easily keep me from liking it. There's a lot of star power in the cast, and the action remains stylish and on-point. It does, however, spend too much time on the wrong end of sequelitis, and that prevents it from being a wholly satisfying experience. There's no better way of me to think of The Golden Circle then comparing it to eating junk food. It won't make you better off in the long run, but, every once in a while, you can enjoy putting a little junk through your system.
Recommend? Only if you really liked The Secret Service.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: