Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Starring Taron Edgerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, and Julianne Moore
Film Review by Euan Franklin
In 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service was a fun surprise – even when considering its faults. Released before Deadpool changed the comic-book movie aversion to blood and swearing, Kingsman was thrilling and violent whilst also being cheeky. It was only inevitable for a sequel to arrive, and for it to be worst than the first, but The Golden Circle excels in its failure.
A year after the events of the first film, Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) has his world turned upside-down when every Kingsman base is blown up by an unknown enemy. The only survivors are Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), who discover the details of a parallel spy organisation in the United States – Statesman. They join forces to find out who destroyed Kingsman and what they’re going to do next.
As is the common rite-of-passage for British films that have enjoyed international success, the sequel has been heavily Americanised. A large portion of the film is in Kentucky, where the Statesman HQ operates under the guise of a whiskey distillery. The agents have alcohol-related codenames like Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), and my personal favourite, Champagne (Jeff Bridges). This doesn’t exactly match the same gravitas of the Kingsman codenames, named after the Knights of the Round Table. And throughout Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the Statesman characters tell terrible jokes and conform to irritating stereotypes that just feel awkward, even to a British audience. It’s less like an expansion of the Kingsman universe and more like a British original crossing over with its terrible American remake.
Surprisingly, The Golden Circle retains little of the thrill and humour from the original. Matthew Vaughn’s greatest filmmaking talent is creating hilariously exciting action scenes, and underlying them with well-chosen music – unlike all the Guardians of the Galaxy wannabes out there. But this talent is more relaxed in the sequel. There are only two action-music sequences of note, which begin and end the film, and there’s a monotonous two-and-a-half hours in between where we’re just twiddling our thumbs.
Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman attempt to cram in too many storylines, resulting in all of them feeling vastly underdeveloped. The film is ludicrously long at 140 minutes, and desperately needs a trim. And like the original, the script feels like it’s been hijacked by a group of teenage boys. The Secret Service concluded with a Swedish princess offering Eggsy anal sex as a reward for saving the world. If that didn’t feel gratuitous enough, in The Golden Circle Eggsy has to (has to) finger a woman at Glastonbury to insert a tracking device. It sounds like a poor excuse from an unfaithful boyfriend.
The only strength of The Golden Circle is the performances (Elton John cameo excluded), which are vividly delivered by some of the best Hollywood has to offer. It’s a shame that Vaughn and Goldman wrote such two-dimensional American characters – wasting the renowned talent standing at their disposal. This does, however, make Strong and Edgerton shine as the strongest and most memorable performances. Without these two leads, the film is nothing.
Overloaded with half-constructed characters and superfluous storylines, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a giant step back for Vaughn – who has always been reticent to make sequels. Why he chose to make this one is anyone’s guess. Maybe the money was right.
Watch the Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Trailer below...