Sequels can be a tricky thing. One of the worst traps that many studios fall in to is the “I’ll make it bigger next time.” The only problem is while they may go out of their way to make it bigger and louder, most of the time the movie falls apart because it was never designed to be that big or loud, and the rest of the time the movie lacks sufficient plot to support the very over-the-top weight the film has. Luckily from 20th Century Fox we now have Kingsman: The Golden Circle that by its very nature manages to defy that pitfall from being bigger and louder than the first film Kingman: The Secret Service. In fact anything less in The Golden Circle would have sealed its doom. However, we have the movie and we have what it was meant to be, and that is a completely over the top raucous adventure with laughs.
As with all spy films, the plot has a cliché approach, but as with The Secret Service, the plot in this film takes on a life of its own that helps to add to the movie’s overall ludicrous charm. Bad guy has developed a way to essentially take over the world, and it’s up to the Kingsman to stop the bad guy before millions of people die. That’s it! What did you expect? After all this is taken from a graphic novel. However, it more than makes up in characters, and none of them are put to waste. Even if the character has the briefest screen time, they each have juicy scenes that helps to make their roles completely memorable alongside the stars of this film.
Director Matthew Vaughn, who also serves as writer alongside Jane Goldman, takes advantage of the success of the first movie and opens this one up with an action scene that reminds the audience how good of a spy our lead character Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has become, but the action doesn’t stop there. Even as Eggsy manages to escape from what appears to be a sticky ending, the bad guys manage to score some really big points with one heck of a body count as everything the Kingsman know and have is taken away from them. It is here that they learn of an American counterpart to their group, an organization called the Statesmen, and from there our two Kingsman survivors are presented with the biggest shocker ever (but not to movie audiences as this has been shown in trailers for some time), and that is seeing their old compatriot Harry Hart (Eggsy’s trainer Gallahad) alive and physically well, and played by the returning Colin Firth. It is with this story element that if the movie were to possibly fail, it would have been this. However, through clever flashbacks, and some smart writing on the part of Vaughn and Goldman, this surprise does pay off quite well, and surprisingly enough becomes the gift that keeps on giving. Firth does a magnificent job in this role, giving an unexpected duality to the character of Hart, as well as later showing some wonderful vulnerability that helps to make him more fully formed. Another role that also showed some enormous growth was that of Merlin, the stragetic/technician who coordinates much of the activities of the Kingsman. Actor Mark Strong found a way to give this role a great sense of sophistication and depth, as well as a surprising musical characteristic. Topping off the Kingsman is Eggsy’s Egerton, who reminds us of not only where he came from, but where he has gone in his life’s journey. It’s not only in his words as we are reminded of where he came from, but it’s also in his actions. That quality Egerton brings to the Kingsman certainly plays an active part in Eggsy’s chameleon like role playing on his missions.
The Statesmen, while coming off as a bit rough around the edges compared to the Kingsman, leave no less of an impact in the story, starting with the sadly underused Channing Tatum. Here he reminds audiences why he’s so good in both action and comedic roles. Unfortunately the film shifts the focus off of him fairly quickly and rests it squarely on the spy named Whiskey (while the Kingsman used characters from the Arthurian Legend for their codenames, the Statesmen use drinks as theirs, ranging from Ginger (Halle Berry), to Tequila (Tatum), and even towards Champ(agne), the leader of the group as played by crusty Jeff Bridges in only the way that man knows how to do.
While I did earlier say that the plot is simplistic, it’s also made wonderfully rich with some of the most bizarre and insane twists that continue to come and throw the viewer off with where any of this is going. It is relentless with all of the surprises that Vaughn delivers the audience to where when we finally reach the denouement we’re not entirely sure if this is indeed the ending. This technique keeps the audience members on the seats, and Vaughn isn’t afraid of taking risks with these twists. That was evident in the first film when it appeared that Harry Hart had been killed in cold blood, and with this film Vaughn does not disappoint.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this movie’s chief villain. Vaughn likes over the top villains. We saw that with Samuel L. Jackson’s villainous Valentine and the melodramatically comedic approach he took with everything he did, and that is no different than Julianne Moore, who plays Poppy, an evil genius of a businesswoman whose sunny disposition and love of all things 1950’s practically makes her into a sociopathic Betty Crocker. Her presence again just demonstrates the perfect balance that Vaughn and Goldman have in creating a viable threat to the seemingly unstoppable Kingsman and Statesmen. As dominating and victorious the Kingsman have been, Moore’s Poppy shows who is really in charge and will kill without so much as batting an eye, and the method of death will undoubtedly be ugly!
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an outrageous movie and is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a reminder of when spy movies with melodramatic villains were the rage in years long past, and when going to the movies was meant to be fun!
I give Kingsman: The Golden Circle 4.5 bottles of single-malt Scotch!
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