MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is a gracefully lesser sequel

Utilizing a 'more, more more' attitude, Matthew Vaughn's sequel to hit 2015 sleeper hit hits most, if not all of the right notes

| September 19, 2017

Back in very early 2015, I somehow snagged passes to an early screening of Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” a film I arguably didn’t know too much about going into, but ended up having an insane amount of fun with, awarding it a perfect 5/5 and having it land the number 8 spot on my Best of 2015 list, besting even “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” that came in at number 10. It also was the first advanced screening of a film I ever went to, which got me in touch with people who could get me the screenings I have today, which I am incredibly lucky and thankful for. Coming out opposite “Fifty Shades of Grey,” there was a fear that “Kingsman: The Secret Service” would underperform thanks to its lesser-known source material and hard R-rating; things that ended up making the film an über-successful sleeper hit no one saw coming. It was a ridiculous, but incredibly clever and beautiful take on the classic spy film that you don’t get often from studios anymore. Of course, recognizing the creative cash cow they had created, Fox quickly greenlit a sequel that Vaughn quickly signed on to direct. Fox had a laundry list of things to keep from the first film, things to avoid, things to add and things to exploit in the sequel, all to which we had hoped they would carefully consider for its inevitable follow-up.

And they did…for the most part.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is enjoying his life as a rookie Kingsman agent, alongside his recruitment partner, Roxy (Sophie Cookson). Trying to assimilate into a new life, with his royal girlfriend, Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alström), Eggsy’s life is turned upside down when a rogue attack on every Kingsman base destroys everything he’s come to know as a Kingsman. With the help of Merlin (Mark Strong), he and Eggsy determine the threat is coming from the Golden Circle, a secretive, yet massive drug cartel headed by the enigmatic Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore). With limited resources, the Kingsman must team up with the Statesman, the U.S. counterpart to the Kingsman, headed by Agent Champagne (Jeff Bridges), with help from Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Agent Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), to get to the bottom of these terrorist attacks. All the while, Eggsy and Merlin discover that Harry Hart (Colin Firth), survived the assassination attempt from the first film.

Off-the-bat, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” has a main goal of being far more batshit insane than even the first film, something that does work quite well for the most part. The best parts of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” were the fantastic, clever and completely over-the-top action sequences that made the film the spy homage it is. While we get a lot more of it in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” we get a lot of it, and it somewhat becomes the equivalent of eating a lot of delicious candy in one sitting, it was wonderful going down, but after a while, you kinda wish you had stopped for a while to breathe and get to know those around you some more. That being said, how can you really complain too much when the action sequences in this film are as wonderfully fun and well-choreographed as this?

And that’s where the biggest value of the film comes in: Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn brings the same sort of crazy, cartoonish ferocity to this film as he did to the previous one, if not more. This is a film that relies heavily on a kinetic director’s hand, one thing that Vaughn has never been shy about having. One thing to notice is how much campier “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is than its predecessor, which was already pretty campy to begin with. The film goes from 75% campiness to 95% in one fell swoop, hopping onto the funnier and more comic book side to things than the original. I found this to make for a really good time with the various sequences, though major fans of the original might not really like the complete tone change.

One reason I can attribute this tone change comes in just how much bigger the scale of this film is compared to the original. This is a film made to be seen on an IMAX screen, something I was not afforded by the studio, but even then, seeing the film on a big screen felt imperative to the experience of the film. Unlike the first film, Fox has afforded audiences the opportunity to see the film in IMAX, and given the film’s nature, I can only implore you to find it on the biggest screen possible (which, in the case of mainstream theaters in Charlotte, is the IMAX theater at AMC Northlake). Still, for as in-your-face as this film is, I still don’t get why the film wasn’t released in 3D in the U.S. (international territories all have 3D releases of this film lined up).

Returning performances in this film are as good as ever, with Egerton really taking the reins of what it means to be a leading man in a major Hollywood movie. He has the charisma and the physicality for an action hero, but remains just as adorable to make him more than just a (very) pretty face. I was more interested in the new faces of the film, and once Moore’s Poppy came on screen, I couldn’t look away. This is the role that any actress would relish to play simply for the amount of fun that it offers. Quirky and plucky, Poppy isn’t what you would imagine a major cartel leader to look and act like, but when her mean side hits, Poppy gets sociopathic, all the while maintaining a smile upon her face. This is an absolutely rapturous performance that I can tell Moore is having an absolute blast with. The Statesman also fill out a nice, if somewhat underused cast. The only one with any real substance comes from Pascal’s Agent Whiskey, which is a wonderfully charming cowboy archetype pushed through a James Bond shaped hole. Granted, I’m glad that the other members, especially Berry’s Ginger, are at least implied to have much bigger roles in the next installment. For as good as Pascal is, I can overlook that small cop-out.

Not everything in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is peachy keen, which primarily is hurt by a few poor plot choices that bring unnecessary pain and grief to the characters when we could’ve gotten the same message without them. There’s a sort of ruthlessness to “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” that makes its carefree attitude come into question sometimes with how easily they seem to kill characters willy nilly. It provides for a fair amount of unpredictability, but not at the sacrifice of killing potential.

There’s almost a sense of a social message with “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” that is presented to audiences in its final act that I didn’t expect the film to do, let alone even reference. It was a pretty cool way of bringing real world issues into an out-of-this-world film, while also satirizing everything that makes the real world so ridiculous. In a sense, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” might be batshit crazy as an action film, but from its sheer ridiculous real world it portrays, it’s really not too much different than our own. Give or take a few doomsday situations.

Like the original, this film is also littered with wonderful music choices that complement the film wonderfully. Thanks to some stylistic covers of some classic songs that hit each sequence wonderfully, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is as cheesily beautiful in the aural sense as it is in the visual sense. On top of that, there is a cameo in the film, while publicized and credited, cannot be understated in how well-done, wonderfully daft and absolutely hilarious it’s pulled off with.

Is “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” as good as “Kingsman: The Secret Service?” No. Should you be upset by that? Also, no. The point of the “Kingsman” franchise isn’t to be objectively good, but rather dumb, exaggerated fun that brings a talented cast together for a ridiculous, R-rated action-fest. A lot of people have criticized this sequel thus far for being too much in a single film, and while I can agree that development of some of the newer characters could’ve been more fleshed out, I think beyond that, this sort of extra-ness is exactly what the “Kingsman” series needs to be. What needs to not be done is the senseless writing off of many characters and settings for the servicing of a temporary plot point. This ruins much of the potential that comes with a lot of these enigmatic, likable characters, and I want to see them continue to entertain. If you’re a fan of the original “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” then I can’t see you actively disliking “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” That initial sense of wonder and disbelief of how crazy this series is has worn off from the first film, but for a sequel to push the boundaries of what’s considered crazy is admirable in itself, even with its flaws. Flaws, schmaws, I had fun, you’ll have fun and that’s all that matters.

4/5

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, with Elton John, and Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges.
Runtime: 141 minutes.
Rating: R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.
Also available in IMAX and Dolby Cinema.

Twentieth Century Fox presents, in association with Marv, a Cloudy production, a film by Matthew Vaughn, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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