The first Kingsman movie was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2014, an insanely fun homage to the Roger Moore era of Bond while taking things to a violent and over the top extreme. Now that that bar has been set extremely high, The Golden Circle doesn’t quite reach it but is still an entertaining spy romp.
Kicking off immediately with a crazy action sequence, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is attacked by washed out Kingsman candidate Charlie (Edward Holcroft), who survived the extermination of Valentine’s VIPs at the end of The Secret Service and now has a robot arm and is working for the sinister but upbeat drug baroness Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), who is launching another threat that could wipe out millions and, thanks to a hack by Charlie’s robot arm, manages to practically wipe out Kingsman except for Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong). Executing Kingsman’s “Doomsday Protocol” they find a bottle of Statesman brand whiskey and travel to Kentucky to find their American cousins, who offer up all their resources to help find out what the threat is and stop it. Similar to John Wick Chapter 2 earlier this year, The Golden Circle does a great job of expanding the wacky world of Kingsman and Statesman is a fun addition, with their southern fried charm and western inspired weaponry, including electric lassos and baseball hand grenades but only Pedro Pascal as Agent Whiskey really gets to anything substantial (including three bad ass fight sequences) and Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges are really only cameos (Channing gets put on ice, literally). Halle Berry also gets an extremely cliche subplot about wanting to move from being backup to being in the field that does not pay off at all. Luckily the chemistry between the main trio of Kingsman agents, which includes the miraculously alive Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is still extremely strong and lends the movie more emotional heft than you would expect from an over the top action movie. Taron Egerton especially is incredibly charming and hilarious, just like the first film, and he subverts the Bond formula by being in his stable romantic relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), who would have just a cast off Bond girl in a Bond movie, and his personal ties to the other Kingsman, especially Harry. There’s lot of great little call backs and references to the first movie as well and the continuity is extremely deep and strong (One great bit is a spin on the bar fight with Colin Firth from The Secret Service that doesn’t quite go as smoothly for Harry this time around). There are a few things that are similar in a bad way though, like the villainous plot effecting millions and needing a code to be shut down or yet another double cross from someone working the Kingsman that make The Golden Circle not as fresh and original.
The Secret Service had possibly one of the greatest action sequences of the last few years with Harry’s utter decimation of a Westboro Baptist style church while under the aggression amplifying effects of Valentine’s cell signal and nothing in The Golden Circle really lives up to that sequence but there is still some fun, strong action, like the aforementioned opening where Eggsy and Charlie battle in the cramped quarters of a London cab and the final assault on Poppy’s 50’s style jungle hideout is spectacular with full use of gadgets and the inhuman combat skills of Eggsy and Harry (and assistance from a special guest star) but there does seem to be a lot of dead space and bloat that wasn’t in the first movie and the movie does drag, especially in the middle, and it probably is way too long at 2 hours and 21 minutes (I can easily see at least that some of that 21 minutes getting cut down). Also, speaking of that church sequence from the first Kingsman, I feel like The Golden Circle toned down the violence from The Secret Service, it’s obviously still R rated but The Secret Service gleefully took full advantage of that rating while everything is a bit more sterile and clean in The Golden Circle.
Now that we have actual expectations based on the fantastic first movie, The Golden Circle doesn’t quite live up to them but it’s still a fun spy spectacular with great characters and fun action, it’s just way too long and drags at times in a way the first movie never did. If you were a fan of the first movie, everything you liked is still here and I would still be up for another go around with the Kingsman in the future.