TL;DR – A great follow-up, but it does struggle to find its feet in places.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
So the original Kingman: The Secret Service was one of the first films we reviewed back in 2015 when we started (and you can read it HERE). Overall we really liked the film, it had great action, a fantastic cast, a magnetic lead villain, and it was a star-making turn for lead Taron Egerton. Overall the movie worked bar one ill-placed ‘joke’ at the end which was out of place, tacky, unnecessary, and literately brings the whole movie to a stop to get it out, but that didn’t stop Kingman from getting on our Top Films of 2015 list (see HERE). So I was wondering if they could make the follow-up as good as the first film and I think they may have just pulled it off.
So to set the scene, it has been a year since the last movie and the genocidal murderer Richard Valentine was stopped. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has taken on the mantle of Galahad after his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) was killed in the last film. Leaving work one evening so he could join his now girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) he is confronted by his former rival and now Golden Circle henchman Charlie (Edward Holcroft) who Eggsy inadvertently saved at the end of the last film. Well bang we are straight into action, but all of this is a ruse because Charlie is not trying to kill Eggsy he is trying to get into the Kingsman computer systems for his boss Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), and in one surgical strike all the Kingman other than Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) wiped out. So in absolute disarray, Merlin implements the Kingsman’s doomsday protocols, which leads them to discover that they are not as alone as they first thought.
Ok overall I quite liked The Golden Circle, it is was irreverent and subversive as the first film, also it has a similar tone which should tell you if you are going to like the sequel or not. However, to really get into the film it will quickly lead us into [SPOILERS] so be careful progressing if you have not seen the film, as there may be some as we proceed.
As I mentioned in the first film one of the highlights was the strong cast, and in the sequel, everyone is still bringing their A-Game. Julianne Moore is this weird blend of 1950s housewife, Don Draper, and a psychopath, and it really works. Like Samuel L. Jackson, they have let her take the character to a place that is oddly sympathetic yet still really messed up, oh and you might not want to have burgers before or after you see this film. In the sequel, Taron Egerton has gone full Bond, but with a loving caring partner, which makes some things better, though there are some complications. He still fits magnificently into the world, walking that tightrope between his past and present. Mark Strong is, of course, amazing and it is so good to see him in a film that is worthy of his talent, and Edward Holcroft is good as the down and out henchman, and it was a good progression for the character. Also, Elton bloody John is amazing all throughout the film, he might be the best addition to the cast, for sheer absurdity factor alone.
When it comes to the action, well I quite liked it, but it might be a bit hit and miss with some people. I would say the action is a blend of the Church sequence from the first film and the fight scenes in say the Bourne Ultimatum. It is a bit jarring at first, but I really kind of dug it as the film progressed. The highlight was probably Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) taking out the patrons in the bar with his lasso, only then a little later to show just what that lasso can do when it has been put into the lethal mode. Now the one thing I will say is that you do see the CGI in places, actually quite a lot of places. Usually, I find this kind of grating, but it wasn’t an issue for me here, mostly because the film is actually quite absurd. Because of this tone, it weirdly fits when it otherwise would stick out.
The story is another highlight because it is both as silly as it is fascinating, much like the first film. In the first film, we took aim at the politicians that stand only for re-election and who are doing nothing about Climate Change thus dooming us all. In The Golden Circle the target has shifted and this time the focus is on The War on Drugs. So in this fictional setting Poppy Adams has been able to take control of the entire global drug trade … ok yes, that is silly but just go with me on this. She is upset that she is considered a criminal when tobacco, alcohol and sugar are sold freely. So she laces all of her drug with a virus, that after a long incubation period it effects the users with a blue rash that leads to neural deterioration and death. Her demand, stop the War on Drugs, legalise them, regulate them, tax them, and then legitimise her as a business women, and save the country billions of dollars in the process. The deaths of millions aside it makes a certain amount of sense, which sets Poppy apart from most of the Bond Villains. But what’s really interesting is how the President (Bruce Greenwood) responds. He doesn’t capitulate, he doesn’t go along with the plan to get the antidote, only to renege. What he does is he strings Poppy along with no intention of ever helping the people who are infected. He’ll win the war on drugs buy letting the supply base die, not only is this inhumane and brutal, it also makes enough sense that I could actually see someone on that side of politics doing it. It is these looks into the real world through this absurdist lens that makes these films really interesting for me.
Ok as much as I liked The Golden Circle, it is not a perfect film, and I did have some issues with it. There were some issues with the second act, with a big lull in the pacing between them arriving at Kentucky and arriving in Italy. It is here where once again Golden Circle makes the same mistakes as The Secret Service and goes too far in one of its sight gags. As well as this, some of the supporting characters are completely underused Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges don’t really get much to do and Channing Tatum is literally put on ice for most of the film, but don’t worry he’s still good enough to set himself up for the sequel. Finally, look I know you are 20th Century Fox, but good lord no one in America outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue watches that much Fox News, and you want to tell me they stream it in the Swedish Royal Household, come on. Finally, why the cages, like I get putting people into the stadium, but why the cages, they were told that they would be dead in a week-ish, so it makes no practical sense why they would need the cages, nor how they got so many in such a short time, it is a sight gag I know but it is one that makes no sense.
So yes, we do recommend The Golden Circle on a couple of provisos. First, if you didn’t like the tone of the first film, nothing has changed with the second, so you are not probably going to like this one as well. As well as this, as I said it has a very particular artistic style, and while I enjoyed this style, it might not be for you. However, those issues aside, I am really looking forward to seeing where they go from here, and who else they will set their eyes on for this quality satire.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Directed by – Matthew Vaughn
Written by – Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Based on – Kingsman by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons
Music by – Henry Jackman & Matthew Margeson
Cinematography by – George Richmond
Edited by – Eddie Hamilton
Starring – Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, Sophie Cookson, Poppy Delevingne, Emily Watson, Michael Gambon & Elton John
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R