29th Sep2017

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Review

by Joel Harley

Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Keith Allen, Michael Gambon, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Elton John, Jeff Bridges | Written by Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goldman | Directed by Matthew Vaughan

kingsman-2-poster

The rags-to-refinement tale of young council estate Eggsy, the spy’s apprentice, was one of 2014’s most charming blockbusters. Yes, even with the controversial anal sex joke at the end. Following in the footsteps of the similarly successful Kick-Ass, Kingsman gets its sequel in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Unfortunately, the echoes to Kick-Ass don’t end there. Like that other sequel, The Golden Circle is kind of depressing and bad.

Director Matthew Vaughan and screenwriter Jane Goldman have always done a good job of curbing series creator Mark Millar’s worst excesses, but somehow Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels more Mark Millar than its predecessor – despite not having anything to do him (the book ended with the first arc). It’s more of the same, except grimmer and meaner, constantly trying to outdo the first movie’s church massacre.

When all but Eggsy and Merlin (a still-wonderful Mark Strong) are wiped out in a pre-emptive strike by drugs baroness Poppy (a not-quite-wonderful Julianne Moore) the pair are forced to seek assistance from their American counterparts, The Statesmen. Together they must join forces to hunt down Poppy as she holds the world to ransom, threatening the lives of drug users everywhere with a gory, fatal poison. Aiming for complete global drug legalisation, it’s no less outlandish than Samuel L. Jackson’s plan in the first movie, but it is far less interesting.

For the first half, the film nips along at a reasonable pace, kicking off with a frenetic, exciting fight sequence in a taxi. The Kingsman are destroyed (poor Lancelot really gets the short thrift here, and Michael Gambon has likely never earned an easier paycheck) and there’s some more great action when Eggsy and Merlin first encounter the Statesmen. It’s when the story kicks in that Kingsman: The Golden Circle really becomes a slog.

The jokes consistently failing to land isn’t a problem when there’s such fun action, but once the spies get to spying, the pace grinds to a halt and the film comes to rely increasingly on callbacks and cliché. Colin Firth’s return as Harry Hart amounts to little more than a Men in Black 2 rehash, while the much-vaunted Statesmen are barely in it. The subversion of Harry’s “manners maketh the man bit” is momentarily amusing but, like everything else, it goes on for far too long and we already saw it twice in the first movie anyway.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has a handful of good jokes, but it ruins almost every one of them through repetition. Its big celebrity cameo is funny the first time he pops up, but after that it’s a series of seriously diminishing returns – and The Simpsons did it first anyway, with Mr. Burns and Tom Jones. Even the action becomes tiresome by the end. There are only so many times one can accompany a super violent fight sequence with an upbeat pop song before it starts to get old and predictable.

Like Kick-Ass 2, this is a film which is only interesting when it is being offensive, and it knows it. As a result, it constantly feels as though it’s trying too hard – the entire Glastonbury sequence is just trash – but doesn’t even have the guts to go the whole hog, like Grimsby. Its attempts at genuine warmth and emotion are as faked and flat as its try-hard offensiveness.

Which is a shame, because that leaves the excellent cast floundering for more. Taron Edgerton is so good as Eggsy that he almost sells the perfunctory emotional bits, and there are signs of a great villain in Moore’s Poppy. Of the Statesmen, only Pedro Pascal really gets anything to do (which he does with aplomb), while Channing Tatum is wasted but gets the film’s best laugh. Jeff Bridges is barely in it, and Colin Firth is essentially a joke now. The real golden circle here is Edgerton, Pascal and Mark Strong, holding the story together with dignity and class.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is too successful in its casting and action sequences to be considered a complete waste, but it is not a good film. Far too long, unfunny and obvious, it’s a rare disappointment from a director usually known for his wit and vitality. Until the next time at least, Kingsman seems to have lost its mojo.

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