Posted: Friday, September 22, 2017 – 5:07 PM
By Adam Sherman
When Kingsman: The Secret Service debuted in theaters, few expected it to have an impact. It was based on a lesser-known independent comic by Mark Millar (Ultimates, Kick-Ass), featured a hard-R rating, was considered by executives to be “too British” and was released the same weekend as the eagerly anticipated big screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Surprisingly, though, the film, while making less money in the opening weekend than the aforementioned E.L. James adaptation, managed to make back its budget and then some in the U.S. alone. It became director Matthew Vaughn’s (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) highest grossing film, and was considered one of the most pleasant cinematic surprises of 2015. Thus, like the tales of 007 and Jason Bourne before it, a sequel was inevitable.
Can said sequel maintain the same momentum the made the first film great? Yes… and no.
When the Kingsman organization is decimated by The Golden Circle, a drug cartel, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) must travel to America and team-up with The Statesmen, their across-the-pond counterparts, to combat said criminal syndicate and its sweet, yet soulless leader, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore).
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a study of paradoxes, the two words best describing it being “escalation” and “de-emphasis.”
In regards to the former, the action sequences serve as the most memorable aspects of the film. Within the first two minutes of the film, we get a simultaneous hand-to-hand fight/chase sequence that keeps you on the edge of your seat asking, “how could they top that?” only for each action scene to do just that in unique and creative ways varying from change in location to weapons used to participants, and even to music choices. Another perfect example of escalation is the villain, Poppy. Her first scene alone demonstrates that we are dealing with a very different, far more vicious class of criminal than the first film’s Richmond Valentine.
Taron Egerton shines as Eggsy, who, though now an experienced spy, continues to grow and comes to terms with his new life as a Bond-esque super spy, and the consequences such a life can bring. Julianne Moore is absolutely delightful as Poppy, easily able to switch between ’50s style charm and ominous menace. Mark Strong also does admirably in his reprisal of the first film’s Merlin, now forced to work in an area outside his comfort zone and without the resources once available. In addition, Colin Firth continues to impress as the surprisingly-back-from-the-dead Harry Hart (whoops, spoilers), easily slipping into his turn as an action hero, while also recalling to some of his more low-key, dramatic roles in the film’s first half.
Unfortunately, the aspects of “de-emphasis” show themselves as the film barrels forward. The Statesmen themselves are delightful and memorable, but save for Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), they are not given much to do, mostly acting in behind-the-scenes capacities (Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale) or extended cameos (Jeff Bridges’ Champ). The Golden Circle doesn’t bother to tackle the aftermath of the events of the first film, and several supporting cast members are left in the dust. Even Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), despite being promoted to Eggsy’s love interest isn’t given any agency. In fact, none of the women really get a chance to join the guys in the action – a far cry from Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle in the first film, or Hit-Girl in Vaughn’s previous Millar adaptation, Kick-Ass.
The film tries to take a stance on drug issues, but doesn’t quite stick the landing.
All that said, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is still a rip-roaring delight, and certainly succeeds at that, though it may be more difficult to appreciate if one hasn’t seen The Secret Service.
Manners. Maketh. Man. Go. See this movie. Now.
Ranking: 7.5 out of 10