Kingsmen: The Golden Circle - Review: A Class Sequel
Manners maketh man.... well, didn’t the Internet kill that one? I suppose these days it would have to be something more realistic. Maybe, “Not being a dick maketh man” or perhaps, “Only ripping on mates when it’s really funny maketh man”. Either way, there’s no doubting that even in my native politeness ground zero, a.k.a England, we’re moving away from the ideal of the politely-mannered well-dressed gent. So what’s the bright side? Whenever society moves away or past something, it empowers it more towards cinema and fiction. Let’s face it, we all love a good throwback whether it’s Thursday or not and films that simultaneously merge past nostalgia with present culture will always make great viewing. That wasn’t only reason Matthew Vaughn’s 2015 Kingsmen offering was such fantastic entertainment. Neither is it only reason the sequel is another badass thrill ride. Like its agents, this film is a touch of class.
When an attack by the mysterious Golden Circle drug cartel leaves the Kingsman Intelligence Agency in tatters, the surviving Eggsy (Taron Egerton – Eddie the Eagle) and Merlin (Mark Strong – Kick Ass) will seek the help of their US cousins, Statesmen, to bring down the circle and save the world.
This is very much a flat sequel. It carries very little character development but expands the world of Kingsmen. While this could (and maybe should) be a criticism, it does allow the film to be more fun by giving it more time to run riot.... and riot it does. Golden Circle brings all the mad ultraviolent action, delightfully foul-mouthed and occasionally smutty joy of the first film back for another helping. It’s a smash-mouth rollercoaster that will not fail to put a smile on your face. The action in particular has been taken to another level as the rapid and dynamic camerawork gets crazier than ever yet it never feels overdone or dizzying. While the perspective may quickly circle and shift views around a fight, it does so in precise beats and synchronicity with the choreography so that everything becomes one top to toe tailored product. Right from blistering the opening taxi chase sequence, returning director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) makes 2 men trading blows in the back of a black cab feel Rogers & stark going full Civil War on each other. Yet if that was the whole film, there would be the danger of merely retreading familiar ground, making it more Waynes World: The Golden Circle. But it doesn’t... courtesy of their secret US sister organisation, Statesmen. They’re essentially The Kingsmen but founded by southern whiskey makers and model themselves on more traditional American apparel (and of course, have much bigger financial assets because booze sells better than suits). Their presence adds more unique forms of fighting and gadgetry like electric lassos, crazy six-shooter spinning action which all really helps give this sequel its own sense of identity. It also doesn’t hurt that their agents include Pedro “Oberyn Martell” Pascal, Channing “The Mike” Tatum and Jeff “The Dude” Bridges. As those names might suggest, neither is there any shortage of humour.
Now I say there’s little character development in this film, and that’s good because most of it isn’t as rewarding. Take our boy, Eggsy. When last we saw him, he was getting his special backstage pass reward from the princess of Sweden for saving the world. Rather than leave that a on- night and one-film stand, Golden Circle sees them now deep in a relationship with Eggsy occasionally conflicted over committing to a their relationship (thus becoming prince of Sweden) and his duties as a secret agent. While this can be seen as a fun parody on what Bond would be like if he had a serious girlfriend and in places it does make Eggsy’s motivation more personal; overall, it still feels quite weak. Eggsy’s personal journey was the driving force of the first film. Yet now, he’s hot there nobody seems sure what to do next. Similarly, Mark Strong’s Merlin gets some brief exchanges with his US counterpart, Halle Berry’s (X-Men) Ginger, over going into the field for very little payoff. Thankfully, there is the return of Colin Firth’s (The King's Speech) Harry Hart to save the day. Firstly, his return (from being shot in head and killed) is handled well and his rehabilitation from amnesia is enjoyable. What’s more, his subsequent period of recovery and adjusting to single lens vision produces some great laughs. It’s also worth noting that while he makes his minutes count, Channing Tatum features less than the trailer material implies.
Although occasionally swerving in a less relevant direction, the story does measure up, being another play on a theatrical old school Bond villain affair. Replacing nerdy Samuel L Jackson (even typing that feels wrong) is Julianne Moore’s (Still Alice) perky drugs mastermind, Poppy, who fits in well as another fun eccentric villain. Her Dr. Evil worthy tropical hide-out decked out like a 50's town main street looks great and provides an entertaining final showdown location. What’s more, there’s some surprising depth to her more straightforward master plan to end the war on drugs as different parties use it for their own agenda. There are 2 notable points where the momentum does sag:following the opening set piece and following the Statesmen reveal, which does bring this slick beast of a film back down to mortal pleb level again. This contributes to the overstretched run time of 2 hours 21 when underneath it lies better paced sub-2 hour-cut that the editing team should have tried on for size before choosing the longer length design. It ultimately feels like a film built around its biggest ideas but without paying enough attention to the seams.
The bottom line is the suit still fits. It you liked the first Kingsmen outing, though you may not rate this as superior sequel, you will leave the cinema satisfied and needing a good Martini to cool down. It’s all wrapped up in another great soundtrack. Matthew Vaughn recently stated that they have a 3rd film planned (with their dream villain would be Dwayne Johnson) with the world building The Golden Circle has laid ou,t that could be one hell of show. It you want good action and laughs, check this film out... but don’t go for a burger afterwards.