Look back to 2014, we had the resounding success of Marvel’s cosmic space adventure Guardians of the Galaxy, Christopher Nolan exploring space both inner and outer in Interstellar and J.K Simmons shouting at Miles Teller while he played drums in Whiplash but certainly one film that people were not expecting much from was Kingsman: The Secret Service by the great Matthew Vaughn who had yet to make a poor, or even average film with modern classics such as Layer Cake and Stardust as well as rejuvenating the X-Men franchise with the excellent X-Men: First Class but many still weren’t prepared for the refreshing surprise The Secret Service was. Released two years after self-serious (and brilliant) Bond adventure Skyfall, the first Kingsman honoured yet playfully mocked the spy genre without delving into Austin Powers spoof territory and all that fused with Vaughn’s frenetic yet impressive action and choreography made for one highly entertaining movie that introduced us to the incredibly talented Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp, Sofia Boutella with knives for legs and showed us that Colin Firth could kick ass in a tailored suit and look good while doing it.
Now back for a sequel, a first for Vaughn, Kingsman: The Golden Circle takes all of the outlandish absurdities of the first movie and amplifies them. Having run into a spot of trouble in England, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), now a fully fledged Kingsman agent and now dating Tilde, the Swedish Princess he rescued in the first film, heads to the U.S alongside fellow Kingman operative Merlin (Mark Strong) for some assistance from their Kentucky-based comrades, the Statesmen, headed by leader Champagne (the legendary Jeff Bridges) alongside agents Tequila and Whiskey (Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal) plus their version of Merlin, tech wizard Ginger (Halle Berry) and these new faces are all welcome but it’s a shame they all fail to live up to their potential with Tatum, Berry and Bridges desperately lacking screen time and Pascal (who is excellent on the current season of Narcos) being given a hastily written background which didn’t help me care about him at all really. All this cast came sadly at the cost of a better script. Yes, that manic way Vaughn shoots his actions scenes is back, although despite a slightly larger budget, the CGI action isn’t as convincing and appears cartoonish at times. There are so many sub-plots to keep track of and it really hinders the movie during its inflated runtime. An over-reliance on a certain celebrity cameo eventually proves quite annoying and often becomes laughable and not in the intended way.
Samuel L. Jackson’s hemophobic villain Richmond Valentine is sorely missed here. He’s replaced by the Martha Stewart of the drug industry Poppy Adams played by Julianne Moore who no doubt gives 100% in the role but it’s just her lack of characterization in the script that made Poppy such an uninteresting villain basically utilizing the same evil plan from the first movie. She stays in her hidden headquarters in Cambodia for the entirety of the movie and feels isolated from the main plot. The main problem I had with Golden Circle was the direction the plot went in and decisions that were made regarding certain characters that just didn’t feel natural which was a shame because the first movie even with its hyper visual style still made time for good characters.
Taron Egerton slips effortlessly back into Eggsy’s shoes. His boyish charm is great to see again but it’s fun to see he hasn’t forgotten his London ‘chav’ roots and the movie does have some good laughs mostly from Egerton himself. His chemistry with Merlin is one of the movies highlights as they bounce back off one another with some great quips as we see how they’ve bonded since the previous instalment.
It’s a hard detail to avoid but we do somewhat predictably see the return of Colin Firth’s Harry Hart AKA Galahad (before Eggsy took the mantle) and before watching I was hoping for a clever reason why we were seeing his return (praying it wasn’t an evil clone or robot) but unfortunately I was never convinced in the end that Hart needed to return, as excellent as Firth is in the role. We’re hit with a cliché amnesia sub-plot which really doesn’t add up to much and steals precious time we could’ve used seeing Harry reintroduced to the world , especially with Eggsy now a proper Kingsman agent.
If you were a fan of the crazy, over-the-top elements of Secret Service then you will most likely enjoy the Golden Circle, however those who were looking for more developing of these beloved characters may be disappointed like I was. Regardless, every shot in the film is truly gorgeous and it’s great to hear Henry Jackman’s and Matthew Margeson’s brilliant score again. Vaughn is still as talented as they come and I do believe he should be get a chance to do Kingsman 3 as there is so much to explore in this world. I just hope that next time around things are a bit more focused.
So until next time…
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