Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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When the first Kingsman movie came out a few years ago, it was a huge success both at the box office and with critics. A big part of that was how unexpected the movie was. The loud, silly, over the top, fun approach to the spy genre was a welcome alternative to the gritty and grumpy Jason Bourne films and the new string of “serious” James Bond movies. Yes, Kingsman was great, but a big part of its appeal can be attributed to how unexpected it was. This leaves the sequel in an interesting position though. If the reason a movie was successful (at least in part) was because it was a surprise, what do you do when the second movie is incredibly anticipated.

The answer that Kingsman: The Golden Circle seems to have come up with is simply, “bigger, louder, and more.” If the first movie is director Matthew Vaughn cranking the spy genre up to eleven, then this movie is him breaking the dial right off. More explosions, higher stakes, more guns, more celebrity cameos, more outlandish fight sequences, pretty much more of everything.

The Golden Circle kicks off with Charlie, a character you forgot about from the first movie, attacking Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and attempting to steal his car. Seconds into the movie, we’re in the middle of a highly choreographed fight between the two of them in the backseat of a car that’s part of a high octane car chase through downtown London. Charlie’s attack on Eggsy however turns out to be just the first step in a master plan by the movie’s main villain, Poppy, who apparently secretly controls the drug trade for the entire world. Every drug. Poppy, played by Julianne Moore also, has an affinity for fifties nostalgia, her base being a fifties themed diner in a recreated fifties style town that’s hidden away in the middle of the jungle.

Poppy’s plan kicks into high gear with a targeted attack that takes out every Kingsman base, and every stronghold of every agent, leaving just Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) left alive and all that remains of the entire organization, until a bottle is found that leads them across the sea to the Statesman, an organization that’s pretty much identical to the Kingsman but American and using alcohol themed code names instead of Knights of the Round Table.

While the refreshing novelty feeling of the first movie is gone this time around, the fun, goofiness is still there. The filmmakers are definitely aware of what made the first film work so well and the second movie is a noble attempt at recapturing that. And it works more often than not, and when the movie does work, it works well enough to be able to easily forgive where the handful of sour notes the movie hits. Like the first movie, we get a “manners maketh man” fight in a bar, but with enough twists and changes to keep the scene feeling fresh and exciting. We get a scene where our heroes must get from point A to point B by going through a few dozen henchmen, again with enough creative adjustments to make the sequence feel familiar and fresh at the same time. On the other hand, Julianne Moore’s quirky villain, doesn’t quite measure up to the entertainment that Samuel Jackson brought to the first movie’s villain.

It’s been all over the advertisement for this movie, so it probably doesn’t count as a spoiler to say that Colin Firth makes a return as Harry in this movie despite how he was left in the first movie. A large part of his story is him getting back into the groove of things after the events of the first movie. Perhaps he could have gotten “back into it” a bit quicker as the movie’s near two and a half hour long run time does feel a bit much, but it’s still a joy getting to see a traditionally reserved Colin Firth throw himself full force into an over the top action sequence.

While it’s easy to walk away from the movie feeling like it wasn’t as good as the first one, there’s still a lot to enjoy about this movie. The Statesman additions to the cast (Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal as the agents with Jeff Bridges as their M and Halle Berry as their Q) all feel like they’re having the time of their lives getting to play in this world. Egerton, once again, does a remarkably good job of lead here. Eggsy has been allowed to evolve as a character since the first movie in ways that feel natural and make sense. It would have been easy to have the character be another charming spy that’s saving the world again, but there’s some real character work going on here. At the end of the day, if you left the first movie wanting to spend more time hanging out with these characters, then here they are, just as you remember them, ready for another crazy adventure.

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