The comic book Kingsman provided the basis for Vaughn’s 2015 espionage thriller Kingsman: The Secret Service. The Golden Circle sees the return of the blockbuster-esque flick with a cheeky side, not unlike other Vaughn films such as Kick-Ass (2014). This time around, the Kingsman tailors/superspies find themselves in a ‘bit of a save the world situation’ when their headquarters are destroyed and several agents killed, leaving just two recruits remaining – Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin, played by an entertainingly Scottish Mark Strong. The duo travel to America to meet their US counterparts – Statesman – in an action-packed attempt to stop psychotic drug lord Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore).
The Golden Circle builds on the relative success of its predecessor but the result is something so outrageously oversized that it seems to overshoot itself. While the cartoonish, video game like fight scenes were entertaining to watch, the humour that made the first one so enjoyable was lost in attempt to seem ridiculously big-budget. Kingsman seemed like James Bond with a comic book style humour, and despite the big name cast, the sequel lost the quirky charm that was so prevalent in the first film. For lack of a better phrase, this film was too American. In trying to match the over-the-top, CGI action packed blockbusters that do so well across the pond, it wound up lacking in story and, in all honesty, missed the mark entirely.
For one thing, the film could have been about 40 minutes shorter. For a movie of 141 minutes long there is no real substance to deem this necessary. The so-called plot twists are quite weak and the story itself lacks, meaning that the main substance is the fight sequences. While they are admittedly one of the most entertaining aspects of the film, they are not enough to justify such a lengthy feature. It is worth complimenting the fight scenes properly – they feature a lot of Vaughn tropes that make his films quite visually impressive. While extremely violent, they are not unsettling and the imagery is so cartoonish that they never feel serious, meaning the overall mood of the film is consistent. What made this work in the first film was that the overall movies did not take itself too seriously. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for The Golden Circle. I will say it again – an attempt to ‘Americanize’ the movie from what it was resulted in a comedy-espionage thriller that didn’t know what to do with itself, and ultimately fell flat.
The plot was, for lack of a better word, straightforward. The twists were not overly shocking but not completely predictable – it was fine. Without going into spoiler territory, I felt that the film had a somewhat confusing message regarding drug use, or on a wider scale, the war on drugs. The overall message of the film seems to be – do what you want – but for a film of this scale to take on such a large social issue and just not do anything substantial with it seemed quite wasteful to me – let alone pointless in a comedy-thriller. It felt as though it was added out of obligation rather than an actual attempt to send a message. For me this weakened the overall film. A cheeky, espionage flick that was fun and exciting became an exaggerated and, yet again Americanized, attempt at a blockbuster that really had no substance. It wound up taking itself too seriously, which in turn lost a lot of the whacky charm that the first film had.
That aside, The Golden Circle was jam-packed with stars – with some familiar faces from the previous film and a whole new set of US names to add to the bill. Taron Egerton returned as a significantly more refined Eggsy who was ultimately quite dull in comparison to last time. I feel Egerton did what he could but his character was ultimately watered down this time around. Channing Tatum’s role was similarly lacklustre – it was fleeting, for one, and he added little to the story for such a big name. Colin Firth was also not at his best – the suave Harry ‘Galahad’ Hart who was cool and collected in round one, was this time just all over the place in many ways. Also worth mentioning the whacky cameo of Elton John? It was over-the-top and more awkward than anything. It wasn’t all bad though. Pedro Pascal was a relatively fun addition as Whiskey, and Mark Strong’s performance as Merlin was wonderfully charming, and provided probably the best scene in the film.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a good example of leaving well-enough alone. Its predecessor was, in my eyes, a surprising success, and left alone I would’ve remained fond of Vaughn’s comic book adaptation. An attempt to grow the franchise resulted in a loss of a lot of the things that made it a success. The new characters were overall forgettable and the originals mere shadows of themselves from the first film. While the movies showcased some wonderfully cartoonish fight sequences, it was not enough to salvage a very weak attempt at building a franchise.
Dir: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry & Edward Holcroft
Runtime: 141 min
Ciara Dillon – Film Editor