Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service made a splash on the spy genre upon its release, taking the same tropes that made James Bond such a long lasting pop culture icon and amping them up beyond belief. First, don’t get me started on why first movies require subtitles (why couldn’t it have just been Kingsman!? – but also why couldn’t Sam Jackson have just talked normal in that movie). Admittedly, it is a hell of a ride from start to finish, but I was one of the mild detractors of the film. It is too often trying too hard to be too cool, and has a certain passion for violence and sexism. The sequel, in what is sure to be more in the series, does more of the same, but this time it doesn’t feel quite as original, and it doesn’t have quite the same bold panache, which leaves it falling rather flat.
After helping the independent spy organization Kingsman take down a baddie in order to gain his seat at the table, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) finds himself a full-fledged member of the organization. But he is soon targeted, as is the rest of Kingsman, by a former recruit, but his plot seems to run deeper than revenge. Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) remain the only two to get to the bottom of the attack, and are mysteriously sent to Kentucky where their American cousins might be able to help uncover the plot. Lead by a scruffy cowboy (Jeff Bridges) who runs a bourbon empire, Statesman includes capable agents (Channing Tatum, Pablo Pascal, Halle Berry), who are willing to help. They also discover Harry (Colin Firth) alive, but forgetful of his training. They soon find out that the recruit is working for drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is trying to blackmail the President into legitimizing her drug empire.
Credit should be given where credit is due. This movie knows what it wants to be and it does it extremely well. Director Matthew Vaughn, who helmed the first film as well, has a great handle on what he wants Kingsman to be. The casting I would argue is perfect (I don’t know how they got Jeff Bridges to do this, but I can’t imagine anyone else in the role). Egerton is sleazy enough to play the cocky protagonist, Julianne Moore is having plenty of fun here, Mark Strong should be in more things, and lastly Colin Firth, who is somehow the weak link this installment, feeling like he is mostly going through the motions. The film is stylish, it has tremendous flourish, especially in its meticulously choreographed action scenes, and its violent and vulgar. That is what you get with Kingsman, and that is what you expect.
At the same time, as I said in my opening, Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t have the same freshness as it’s original. We’ve seen the action scenes before, we’ve seen the characters before, with the Statesman counterparts not playing enough of a role to make a major impact, and while Julianne Moore does everything she can to rival Sam Jackson’s villain, her dream world lair is too outlandish for my tastes, even in a film full of outlandish things. And I think that is mostly where the film loses me, the fantasy. I can get on board with outlandish to some degree, but The Golden Circle seems to knock the viewer over the head with it, to the point that I failed to care much about what was happening. The Secret Service pushed the envelope, but The Golden Circle breaks it.
I feel Kingsman fatigue after this film, and while I may be in the minority, or rather the film may well have its staunch fanbase who laud its vulgarity and violence (which by the way, this one feels less vulgar, less violent too), I would be fine never seeing another one of these movies. Look, it’s fine escapist entertainment. Completely mindless. If the film has one thing going for it, however, its the potential of a Jeff Bridges/Channing Tatum Statesman spinoff. I might watch that. But until Firth wakes up from his coma in his role, or Matthew Vaughn brings fresher ideas to an already stale product after just two films, I think I will pass on whatever subtitled sequel finds its way into my local theater next.