"We're from the Kingsman tailor shop in London,
maybe you've heard of us."
After the Kingsman headquarters is destroyed, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) must team up with their American counterparts, Statesman, to stop the evil plan of Poppy (Julianne Moore), the leader of the mysterious “Golden Circle”.
The first Kingsman film came out of nowhere. Coming off of the success of the highly entertaining X-Men: First Class, writer/director Matthew Vaughn used his powers to create something truly unique and wholly entertaining. His ode to the Roger Moore era Bond films was infused with a playful sense of humour and cartoonish violence that you couldn’t but help fall in love with. It was a no-brainer that a sequel would eventually arrive, but the question was what direction would it take? The opportunity to simply do a “more of the same” type follow-up seemed the safe route, however, Vaughn and his partner Jane Goldman are far from safe.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle does everything in its power to remove itself from the somewhat grounded reality that the first film was set in. It makes sense for the first in the series to present a grounded, albeit highly stylized, world to its audience, but with this sequel they’ve gone full Moore Bond. Right from the get-go we are presented an over the top car chase fight featuring an antagonist with a cybernetic appendage (all playing out a Prince song, continue the Kingsman tradition of using pop songs to contrast and heighten the action). This scene contains the fun spirit of the original but ends with Eggsy’s car transforming into a makeshift submarine, signifying we’re not in the same territory as the original. The over-the-top gadgets, settings and set pieces are pushed to their extremes, embracing Vaughn’s clear love for the Moore-era Bond films. The references are numerous (ranging from subtle to blatant) but never take you out of the film, quite the opposite actually, as they help build the charm of this lovable cartoon of a spy film.
The complaint most audiences will have is the over-the-top nature, which works for me because it’s so clearly leaning into what it’s trying to parody. Be thankful it didn’t go the Austin Powers route and just repeat the same film over again, with a bigger budget and worse gags.
It’s hard to replicate the lightning in a bottle that was the first film, but The Golden Circle works hard to build upon the world that was established. Eggsy grows as a character, embracing maturity that comes along with not only his occupation but with being a proper gentleman (after all, manners maketh man). I do have some small issues with the direction the film heads although, rather than drag the film down, they seem to work to build intrigue for what the series has in store for its further instalments.
Across the board the performances are top notch, which isn’t surprising consider the film boasts five Oscar winners. Egerton and Strong build upon the chemistry they developed in the first film, which has developed into a partner/older brother relationship. It’s separate and distinct from Eggsy’s relationship with Harry, but their performances make it just as meaningful. Julianne Moore delivers the standout performance of the film. She has created a villain that is equal parts maniacal sociopath and 1950s housewife. Her portrayal is so bizarre you could almost expect her being a reject from an early Moore Bond film. There’s just something about her calming voice in the midst of all the carnage that can’t help but make you smile. It’s unfortunate Jeff Bridges wasn’t given much to do, finding himself relegated behind a desk sporting a ten-gallon hat and spouting clichés. I get that you can’t have him go out into the field but having him just sit behind a desk is a clear waste of one of America’s most gifted actors.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is ridiculous, over-the-top and, above all, fun. While it does have it’s problems and doesn’t hold the same unique charm as the original, it’s definitely a worthy sequel that leaves you wanting more from the franchise and hankering for the next instalment.
7.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Chris Swan.