A year after joining the ranks of the sleek secret intelligence agency Kingsman, saving the world and ‘celebrating’ this triumph with a Scandinavian princess. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) must address a new growing global threat: the mysterious narcotics empire The Golden Circle. However, he is not alone. After a devastating attack on Kingsman, Eggsy, with the help of Merlin (Mark Strong), seeks out the aid of Statesman: the cowboy counterparts to the Savile Row super spies.
See, when Kingsman: The Secret Service emerged in cinemas – a rated R underdog amongst what will, in my eyes, be considered the height of the golden-age of the Marvel dominated comic book movie era – no one was expecting it to be as unabashedly bonkers and bespoke, as smutty and, most crucially, as successful as it turned out to be.
The film grossed $414 million worldwide, becoming director Matthew Vaughn’s most commercially successful film, and, in an era prior to the likes of Deadpool and Logan, signalled how a change away from the Disney-fied mentality that was driving mainstream comic-book movies could be achieved. In short, it was something new and exciting.
It injected the lost campiness of a forgotten 007, in an age where James Bond was moving away from outlandish gadgetry, towards a new-found grittiness. It dialed up unconventional ultraviolence in a time where fight sequences in these ‘sort’ of movies had plateaued into dull myriads of predictability – think Ultron in the second Avengers movie.
The first Kingsman was something different, outlandishly and gleefully occupying the position of something we are all too familiar with; it was a terribly entertaining cuckoo, knocking its neighbours out of their nest. Not to mention, of course, the fact that Mr Darcy was no longer flailing at Hugh Grant, but instead cracking open skulls with bear glasses, landing head shot after head shot, and stabbing right-wing religious conservatives in the neck whilst in a church.
The Golden Circle does continue in the style and manner of the first film, but rather than feeling well tailored it is baggy; sagging in too many areas. However, just how you would pull an oversized waistcoat and apply a restraining pin, making the issue go away, this sequel would have benefited from adopting a ‘kill your darlings’ mentality – the design is there, but the fit is wrong.
Although a lot of praise has been written about the action sequences, specifically the opening taxi-chase, the film’s action seemed to lack the twisted conviction of its predecessor. Vaughn’s use of sweeping faux one shot takes, do add a terrific frenetic quality to the carnage, as the camera whirls past flying limbs, bullets and blood with the grace of an Olympic ice skater. Yet, for me at least, there were too many occasions – specifically when the film heads stateside – where conflict seemed to exist with no real purpose. (Although the addition of a certain rocket man certainly does add an added punch to fight scenes).
Another issue that plagues the film is (although it kills me to say it) the return of Harry (Colin Firth), who’s death fuelled the emotional progress of Eggsy’s heroic transformation from chavvy street urchin to suave super spy. Firth is fantastic when he is on screen, but the time spent ferrying him back to his previous self, prohibits adding more depth to the Statesman: Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Tequila (Channing Tatum – who is completely oversold in the trailer and rather annoyingly stripped from the film), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and Champagne, or Champ (Jeff Bridges) as he like to be called. Even the playfully menacing villain portrayed by Julianne Moore is short changed in comparison to Samuel Jackson’s villain in the first instalment. In the absurd world these characters inhabit, the deus ex machina that ultimately brings his character back from a point blank bullet to the the head, is made just about passable by the writer and director. However, I think more would have been gained from sticking true to the conclusion of the first instalment, and instead focusing on the new exciting elements of this bonkers world.
Unfortunately, things feel a tad rushed, when, in actuality, the Golden Circle is too long – the Glastonbury sequence is another example where an extensive period of time could have been completely cut from the film and not much, if anything would have been lost.
Despite this, Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman are clearly having fun from scene to scene. Jokes are rapid and regularly hit the mark; premises like Moore’s villain’s affiliation for 50s chique and her kidnapping of the previously mentioned Rocket Man, are so whacky and fun that you cannot help but love them. When everything works it works well, yet sadly the film does get bogged down meaning than rather being a timeless trend, this feels like a fad that will be forgotten by the winter.
Besides these misjudgements, a lack of fleshing out the Statesman and the overarching villain and her plot, the entertainment value does redeem The Golden Circle. Despite it falling short of the high bar laid down by its predecessor, it is still fun if not a little too baggy.