Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is bigger in scope and has better action than The Secret Service, but it does run a tad long and feels like a slight revisit of the first film in terms of plot beats and development. Still, the characters are more colorful and the political subtext does give it a little more thematic depth, despite its completely over-the-top nature.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the long-awaited follow-up to director Matthew Vaughn‘s absolutely perfect spy movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service. The Golden Circle takes everything we loved about The Secret Service and doubles down, adding more colorful characters, more crazy inventive action, more exotic set pieces and almost too much over-the-top fun. The Golden Circle is less perfect, less reserved, but more ballsy in its all-out approach to deliver a completely engrossing and entertaining action spy film to the modern day cinema world.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is no longer a street-thug-turned-spy and instead now a full-blown Kingsman. His training with Merlin (Mark Strong) and Harry Hart (Colin Firth) has turned him into a gentleman with a taste for ass-kicking and world-saving. But that all seems to go tits up as a new shifty drug cartel known as the Golden Circle starts killing off Kingsman groups one-by-one.
Now, the remaining Kingsman must team up with their American cousins, the Statesman, ran by Champ (Jeff Bridges), Ginger (Halle Berry), Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Together, both spy organizations must attempt to defeat the Golden Circle, which is ran by the evil and insane Poppy (Julianne Moore).
Right off the bat, The Golden Circle ups the ante established in the world of The Secret Service, by widening the scope of the secret spy world that Matthew Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman came up with. More characters are introduced, the setting is no longer primarily London and the stakes seem once again raised to be world-ending. This starts with the introduction of Poppy, who his hiding out in a secret facility, cooking up all sorts of wicked drugs in Cambodia and then stretched out as our Kingsman head over to America to mingle with the Statesman.
Vaughn as a director is functioning on a higher level than most, decking out his spy romp with as much absurdity and energy as possible. Those that thought The Secret Service was a little too silly, especially towards the end, are not going to care for the elevated craziness followed in The Golden Circle. It’s as over-the-top as can be. If you need evidence, just look towards Elton John‘s WTF cameo throughout the entire film.
It’s fitting in the sense that Vaughn is clearly going all-in on his characters and the world that he has established. The Golden Circle is a proper dose of James Bond spy nostalgia that got lost years ago and it’s also a not-so-subtle jab on the legalization of drugs and the political cloud that hangs over its users.
Sure, these messages could have been made with a little more thought, but the approach is topical and hilarious in its own right.
Some might instantly complain about The Golden Circle’s familiarity to The Secret Service. There’s no denying that it borrows beats from the previous film constantly and feels like new filling in an old shell. It does feel like a bit of a cop out, but I believe Vaughn and his screenwriters were simply running with the notions that most enjoyed the shenanigans of the first film, so why not re-create and expand when possible?
This is generally a risky approach, but I thought it worked to the film’s advantage. Occasionally, the film runs a tad slower than the previous entry, yet the action feels more present and ever-encapsulating. Vaughn has a way with a camera unlike most action directors and I applaud him for his smooth edits and unique kills that are brought about by insanely cool gadgets.
Performances are all-around fantastic, with Taron Egerton stepping up once again as the young rookie-turned-agent with elegance and leading man ability. Mark Strong also steps forward, while Pedro Pascal, Julianne Moore and Halle Berry help widen the cast list and give supporting performances the proper energy and kick needed to give the film some variety. Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum and even Colin Firth sort of rely on their own charms to get them through the film, not adding much, but not exactly stealing the spotlight or lessening the roster.
I feel like Kingsman: The Golden Circle is going to be a film that grows on me with time. The more I re-visit it, the less I care about the cracks that are apparent and the faults that the film has. This is because it’s just so damn enjoyable and fun and because director Matthew Vaughn knows better than most how to direct action, with his fluid edits and creative set pieces.
I gave Kingsman: The Secret Service a perfect 10/10 when I saw it in theaters in 2015. At the time, it came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass, with its impressive action that blended with superb storytelling. It was the 007 film that I have been waiting my whole life for and Matthew Vaughn delivered.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t quite stick its landing as well as the previous film, but it also has the unfair task of getting compared to its predecessor. For the most part, Matthew Vaughn delivers a sequel that doesn’t sink to previous film’s heightened expectations, but the film does struggle with becoming its own thing entirely. There is also a bizarrely noticeable presence of CGI that distracts the fun a bit and made me question the budgetary constraints that were faced. Still, The Golden Circle is a memorable action film that should be studied and applauded, because of its creativity and willingness to go all-in and deliver on the promises made when the film got the greenlight to follow-up The Secret Service.