Kingsman the Secret Service was a good film, if you’re into that sort of thing. Basically a more over-the-top version of the early Bond films, boasting stylish action, interesting and fun characters and an ever impressive cast. For me Kingsman was better than most spy films, well ever, because of how well it caught the characters and how fun and well delivered the plot was. From classy heroes to ego-maniacal villain, Kingsman was a blast. Now we have Kingsman the Golden Circle, a sequel with the same cast and from the same crew of the first film. Needless to say, that has given this film some hype from many, including me. How does it fair?
The Kingsman are destroyed – well, that was quick – by an evil drug cartel known as The Golden Circle, led by the sugar-sweet, darling and possible cannibalistic Poppy. This calls Eggsy back into action. But this time, the Kingsmen are not alone. They discover the existence of the Statesmen, their American, whiskey brewing counterparts. Together they must find Poppy and stop her from releasing a fowled drug on a global scale; which would cause, you guessed it, mass genocide. From this adventure we get new characters, the action and gadgets we loved before but on a grander scale and…absolutely nothing else.
It pains me to say this – from minute one, when we enter a spectacular action scene right out of the gate, I knew we were in for an inferior ride. It’s quite amazing how the opening moments of the film summed up the rest of it. It looked good, it was fun to watch, there were a few laughs and wow moments – but I was never engaged by it, and ultimately didn’t care about it. This is director Mathew Vaughn’s first sequel, and it really shows. Here, he appears to be giving the film an identity of its own, while at the same time trying to make it feel like the first film. Needless to say, these things do not gel. As such, we also fall into a lot of sequel traps. You know the ones I mean – the idea that the same but bigger makes it better or equal. Or that it must be darker. There are a number of surprising character deaths in Kingsman the Golden Circle, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Most of these I found to be completely unnecessary, with two very early on feeling like Newt and Hicks in Alien 3 (I might love that film, but that is a bad moment in it). We also get a repeat of some jokes and action scenes. Which, while still fun, do start to feel like pale imitations.
While I’m on this subject, why is Colin Firth back in it? I know he was one of the best parts of the first one (and is one of the best parts of this film), but why is he actually back? He’s given a paper-thin reason for returning and they never justify his return until maybe the end. Besides, his death worked wonders for the first one, why take that away? Not to say Firth does a bad job here, he doesn’t. None of the actors are bad, in fact they’re mostly really good. Taron Egerton is perfect as Eggsy. Eggsy does break character a couple of times here, but that’s on the writing, not Egerton’s stellar performance. Also returning are Mark Strong and Hanna Alstrom – both good yet again, if a little odd on the latter’s part. New-comers to the story are Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges as our Statesmen, as well as Julianna Moore as Villainess Poppy. All did very well with their roles. We also have a minor role from Elton John, playing himself. I mention this because it is easily the most bizarre celebrity casting I have seen since – well, Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts.
But the problem does not come from the acting. It’s the script that lets them down. The writing for this film, much like the film itself, is a mess. We get great moments of action, comedy and even drama and character. But they are just moments. On the whole, I don’t feel it works. Not helping is the sudden change of pitch between films – where the first felt like a spy-thriller parody, this one feels like a run-of-the-mill comic-book movie. As such, it loses its uniqueness for me. Much like Guy Ritchie, Mathew Vaughn has an excellent ability to bring energy to all his films. Energy that made Layer Cake, Stardust and, yes Kingsman the Secret Service so much fun to watch. Sadly though, also like Guy Ritchie, Vaughn’s style is very hit or miss. In the aforementioned his style hit home, in this and Kick-Ass I found it to be very much a miss.
I’m not saying that I didn’t have fun with Kingsman the Golden Circle, because I did. I still found it funny. The action was entertaining. It was well acted and I did enjoy Julianna Moore and Mark Strong’s scenes in particular. But a convoluted story, messy writing, poor narrative and character choices, not to mention some awful special effects and a pretty colossal runtime really bogged it down. I hesitate to say that I didn’t like it, but it was a let-down. I’m not certain I would ever see it again personally. But if the action and the comedy are all you’re there for, then you can do much worse. To me it’s just a case of I loved the first one – this one I thought was just okay.
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