Not all heroes wear capes as Mark Vaughan’s Kingsman: The Secret Service showed us in 2015. Adapted from the comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman was a glorious parody of James Bond that celebrated the sillier aspects of the franchise without ever feeling like a slap in the face. Kingsman: The Golden Circle has Vaughan returning as director with Jane Goldman back on screenwriting duties. It also boasts an all-star ensemble cast of Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges. Promising a louder more spectacular action comedy, the sequel falls far from the high bar it set itself.
Eggsy (Egerton) has settled into life as a Kingsman agent, even if he finds it difficult to juggle his work with his home life. His world is shaken when evil villain Poppy Adams (Moore) wipes out the majority of the Kingsman with missile strikes, leaving only Eggsy and his trainer Merlin (Strong) alive. With few leads, they travel to America where they team up with Statesman, a similar organisation to their own. The biggest surprise for the travelling Brits is discovering that Eggsy’s mentor Harry (Firth) is still alive.
The opening to Kingsman: The Golden Circle set the tone for the majority of the film. The action sequence, if bullish and grandiose, unfortunately lacks the fun and excitement it aims for. The car chase is a stramash of incidents that mesh together into a blur and is far too long.
One thing the film doesn’t skim on is the action and, as over the top as they are, they lack any real investment for the first half. Plot points seem to exist to lead from one set piece to another, which would be fine if what was on display wasn’t surprisingly dull.
It does pick up in the third act, though by this point Kingsman: The Golden Circle is already hitting the two hour mark. Thankfully the movie starts to hit its groove and shows as why the first one was so great as opposed to reminding us what’s missing this time. The battle at Poppy’s secret lair has Eggsy and Harry stand side by side at last, highlighting how important Firth is to the success of this franchise. He plays the role straight and dapper, preserving that British stiff upper lip while unleashing some not so gentlemanly violence along the way.
The wealth of talent at Vaughan’s disposal means that many of the cast are underused. Berry, and Tatum appear wasted here unless there are further plans for their characters in proposed future instalments. As it stands they’re in glorified cameos, with that particular guest slot reserved for Elton John in a joke that’s played one too many times. Pascal gets to show off his charisma as Jack Daniels, a stereotypical Texan cowboy complete with a gimmicked lasso.
The gags fail to elicit the same laughs this time as Kingsman: The Golden Circle tries too hard to be the edgy alternative to Bond whereas last time it got the nuances just right even if the violence and vulgarity was turned up to 11. Here, there’s an attempt to make everything more excessive which contradicts how restrained the team appear as they play it safe, reigning it in at the wrong moments.
The stakes aren’t raised, nothing offered elevating the movie from the brilliant achievement that was the first one. As mentioned, it does pick up towards the end but there’s a chance your attention will have waned by then. Worth a watch if you’ve seen the first one, just don’t expect everything to be bigger and better stateside.