2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service stood in stark contrast to the grim and gritty spy flicks of the past decade. Its silly atmosphere, stylish presentation, and delightful lack of political correctness felt so refreshing that I looked forward to a potential sequel. After a two and a half year wait, Matthew Vaughn and the cast have returned in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It’s time to leap back down the rabbit hole and see if this franchise has some legs. But first, we must answer two simple questions:
Is this movie as good as the first one? Yes.
Is it one of the greatest films ever made? Not at all.
The Cast Is Great.
An action movie lives and dies by the charisma of its cast. Luckily, The Golden Circle has that in spades.
Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth deliver strong performances as the surviving members of the Kingsman. These three men are perfectly cast as Eggsy, Merlin, and Galahad, but there is one small problem. The script does not balance the development of their characters all that well.
Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry do a wonderful job as members of the Statesman, an American version of the titular spy agency. Their characters embody silly American stereotypes, but it’s so much fun to watch them play a bunch of liquor-swilling cowboys. They even have absurd names like Champagne and Tequila!
We can’t talk about the rest of the cast without getting into the story, so let’s go there!
The Plot Is Imperfect, But Thoughtful.
One of the nice things about the Kingsman franchise is its utter devotion to absurdist satire. The Secret Service brought us an international conspiracy to stop global warming by killing most of the world’s population. In this film, the gang fight against a drug empire led by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore).
Many films fail miserably when they try to comment on a social issue. Thankfully, The Golden Circle‘s over-the-top take on the war on drugs is a stunning success, partly because it plays with the idea that there are no easy answers. To give you an example, Poppy Adams and the President (Bruce Greenwood) embody the most ignorant sides of the issue. On one hand, Poppy wants the President to legalize all drugs, but she greedily ignores the extremely toxic effects of hard substances. On the other, the President thinks that the government should let all of the drug users die, but he ignores the fact that people like Poppy can simply find new customers.
Unfortunately, the film stumbles with the introduction of a third villain that I won’t spoil here. This particular subplot comes out of nowhere in the story, which makes it seem like the cutting room floor bit off more than it could chew.
The Fight Scenes Are Gorgeous.
For those of you that love to pick apart the technicals, I am happy to report that The Golden Circle delivers a feast for the eyes and ears. The cinematography is excellent, the production design works well, and all of the pieces fit together quite nicely. With that said, no one goes to a Kingsman movie to appreciate the angle of the shots. We go to one for the batshit insane fight sequences!
Viewers can expect a hearty dose of awesome with their espionage, especially in the last act. The gunplay is all that you expect and more, but the real star of the show is the gadgets. The heroes play around with baseball grenades, whiskey bombs, an electric lasso, and other imaginative items that tip the hat to old school James Bond movies. Meanwhile, Poppy and her minions have a pair of mechanical dogs that are straight out of Wolfenstein: The New Order.
However, I have a feeling that there will be a debate over the fights in this franchise. Does this film deliver better fights than the church sequence in the first one? The world may never know!
While it doesn’t tick every box, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a fun little action flick and a great addition to the franchise. If you never saw the first one, be sure to rent or buy it first for that sweet, sweet continuity. Otherwise, take the leap and see this one before it leaves theaters. You won’t regret it!
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