- Product Rating -

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

| November 7, 2017

I wouldn’t have expected to love Kingsman: The Secret Service as much as I did. Upon its release two and a half years ago, its edge, subversiveness, energy, and careful balance of absurdity and mean-spirited humor made it an instant cut above comparable fare, and I, just as surprised as anyone else, saw it six times over its four-month theatrical run. After its runaway success, I read in an interview with Matthew Vaughn that he usually doesn’t like doing sequels because his love for the material has diminished by that time, and that seems to be the case here.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t to the first as Kick-Ass 2 was to Kick-Ass, but it’s no recreation of its predecessor’s magic either. It has its moments, but it’s also a complete mess, overstuffed with characters and subplots and lacking the self-awareness that made the first one a send-up of the genre. If the prosthetic knife legs before were an indication of that film’s sharpness, the robotic arms here are representative of this film’s broadness, mashing away until it hits something amusing by chance.

A few years after defeating an eco-terrorist, those in Kingsman organization are attacked by Charlie (Edward Holcroft), the rejected recruit from the first movie. It turns out that he’s working for the Golden Circle, a worldwide drug trafficking ring spearheaded by Poppy (Julianne Moore), a psycho who lives in an isolated collection of Americana somewhere in the jungle. They destroy Kingsman headquarters, at which point Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) head to Kentucky to work with the Statesman, their American counterparts, and defeat the (un)necessary evil in question.

The introduction of the Statesman also brings the introduction of a plethora of characters (played by Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, and Pedro Pascal). It also brings about the first way in which this movie has more content than a single movie can handle, with each new character feeling diluted in the name of quantity over quality. Each new person in this story is forced to vie for audience attention by stepping on the toes of those that we already know.

The first movie specifically stated that a spy movie is only as good as its villain, and the main antagonist here feels like more of an idea than a memorable opposition. It’s Julianne Moore who breathes life into the role, not the script by Vaughn and Jane Goldman (who both co-wrote the original, as well as Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class together). Poppy, as a character and especially as an antagonist, is so fully removed from everyone else of importance in the story until the obligatory climactic fight. Similarly, the satirical bent of The Secret Service is lost in The Golden Circle, its edge often times relegated to a few one-liners that aren’t all that clever.

The movie as a whole feels more timid in its audacity (or relative lack thereof) and feels like far less care was put into this installment, either because Vaughn’s heart wasn’t in it or because Twentieth Century Fox needed to soften the blow for mainstream audiences, unconfident in their ability to push the envelope once again. Nevertheless, the bout of misogyny that soured the very ending of the first movie is broadened to a larger male gaze and some lame homophobia. I wouldn’t call it offensive, per se, because that implies effectiveness. This transgressions here just felt numbed in the name of that more palatable faux-edginess that people try to pass off as organic.

For its messiness, I appreciate that Kingsman: The Golden Circle tries to further its world than only replay what we saw in 2015. Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) from the aforementioned end of the predecessor is in a relationship with Eggsy here, which might be the most needed of the film’s many subplots. It does have momentum, granted, but it’s still underdeveloped, despite the movie’s 141-minute runtime. The script doesn’t have its priorities straight, and that’s what undoes it, along with its retconning of the original film.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the type of sequel that I feared it would be but hopes it wouldn’t, adhered to the simple mantra of bigger being better and the clouts of its stars being able to redeem underwritten characters and dynamics. It doesn’t work for others and it didn’t work for Vaughn here. His eye for action remains intact, with set pieces being glossy, stylized, and thrilling, but it’s what in between that doesn’t hold weight. As Merlin would say, this is whiskey compared to the single-malt scotch that was the original. It’ll give you a buzz, but that doesn’t mean that it was distilled with enough time and care.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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