Overlong and overblown, this sequel to 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service is louder and more aggressive than its predecessor, with little charm. Even so, the finale offers a few poignant moments, showing what might have been had the creative team focused its energies more on the characters and less on ridiculous scenarios and CGI. 2 out of 5.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is happily involved with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) when he's again called upon by spy organization Kingsman, this time to take on the Golden Circle, a group of criminals and drug runners led by Poppy (Julianne Moore). From her Poppyland headquarters, she launches an attack on Kingsman. With the help of Merlin (Mark Strong) and a seemingly-back-from-the-dead Harry (Colin Firth), the Kingsmen travel to America, where they team up with spy group the Statesmen and principal team members Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum) Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) to defeat the Golden Circle. Along the way, Eggsy will be forced to jeopardize his relationship with Tilde—all in the cause of defeating Poppy's devious plans.
As Eggsy, Egerton was a fresh face in the first Kingsman film but often overshadowed by more established stars like Firth, Strong, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine. Egerton has starred in little else between the two Kingsman films (he was the best thing in the dismal animated flick, Sing, but that was a voice-only performance), but he blossoms here, holding his own against Firth and Strong for an extended amount of screen time. The story's climax also has a few surprisingly moving moments.
Berry's Ginger sits in front of a computer with little to do in nearly every one of her scenes (the screenwriters, perhaps realizing they were wasting a potentially interesting character, have given Ginger hope for more involvement in the next Kingsman film.) The creative team also needs to devise a better opening than the manic car chase that begins Golden Circle, which is so obviously CGI'd and ridiculous that it immediately removes the story from the realm of believability. If that's the route the Kingsman creative team wants to go—after all, an amped-up ridiculousness worked for the Fast franchise, so maybe it will work here as well—they may find commercial success at the expense of emotional connection to Eggsy and the other Kingsmen. As for the film's conclusion, it’s hard to know how much to invest in certain outcomes given how this sequel cheats in bringing a central character from the first film back from the dead.
Only a few moments have deeper resonance than the surface-level thrills this Kingsman chapter aims for. In one, a character says he spent time with shamans while training his "spiritual animal," but this comment is played mainly for laughs rather than any kind of serious contemplation. Later, in a moment of peril, Harry tells Eggsy, "Having something to lose is what makes life worth living." It's a surprisingly poignant comment heading into the film’s climax.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who enjoyed the excesses of the first film will get more of the same in the sequel.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: For the rest of us, the film starts noisily and without any sense of delight in the hijinks. Bringing back from the dead a major character from the first film further stretches credulity.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, directed by Matthew Vaughn, opens in theaters September 22, 2017. It runs 141 minutes and stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Hallie Berry, Jeff Bridges, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal and Hanna Alstrom. Watch the trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle here.
Christian Hamaker brings a background in both Religion (M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary) and Film/Popular Culture (B.A., Virginia Tech) to his reviews. He still has a collection of more than 100 laserdiscs, and for DVDs patronizes the local library. Streaming? What is this "streaming" of which you speak? He'll figure it out someday. Until then, his preferred viewing venue is a movie theater. Christian is happily married to Sarah, a parent coach and author of Hired@Home and Ending Sibling Rivalry.
Publication date: September 21, 2017
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