Action sequels are a dime a dozen at the movies today. The film industry is currently reeling from a summer that was stuffed with too many sequels no one wanted. This sequel mentality is what led to the record low summer box office. After the original “Kingsman: Secret Service” became a runaway $400+ million global hit, a sequel seemed inevitable. However, “Kingsman” was never known for its subtlety. The sequel, “Kingsman: Golden Circle” arrives with all the trappings of a normal sequel except one. Unlike the dull, lifeless rehashes, this rehash is quite a bit of fun.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) appears to have his life together. A fully fledged Kingsman, Eggsy carries on with his girlfriend, Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). However, he’s spurred into action once missiles eliminate all Kingsmen agents. With only Eggsy and his trusted weapons man Merlin (Mark Strong) left, they resort to their emergency protocol, team up with the Statesman, their American counterpart. Upon journeying to their secret whiskey distillery, the Kingsman agents become acquainted with the Statesman agents. Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) acts on a quick trigger finger, while Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) is the best in the biz. Not only that, the Statesman has revived Harry (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor who died in the previous film, thanks to Ginger (Halle Berry), the Statesman’s version of Merlin. The two organizations are called to work together to take down drug cartel owner Poppy (Julianne Moore), who may be responsible to the missiles.
Director Matthew Vaughn handles the film like a kid in a candy shop. He ping-pong between so many different things that all seem to capture his amusement and excitement. The sheer lunacy of certain scenarios earn the audience’s attention. In particular, a snow set action set piece seems lifted straight from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” if the Bond comparisons weren’t literal enough. Yet, these elements work the best. Others, such as Eggsy’s romance with a princess, bog down a film that would improve exponentially from a tighter running time. Additionally, Harry’s amnesia prolongs the inevitable. If we are getting our Colin Firth back, just give him back to us. The good more than outweighs the bad, which makes it all the more frustrating as we slog through the bad elements.
Julianne Moore gives her best audition to be a Bond villain. However, she takes the camp level of Bond villain and turns it up to eleven. Poppy is a straight-laced drug monopoly owner who hides out in a ‘50s themed town of her own design in the Cambodian jungle. She laces all of her drugs with poison and holds the antidote hostage until world leaders legitimize drug use. Essentially, Poppy wants to conduct her business legally so she can live in a big city again. It’s preposterous. It’s also hilarious at every turn. Moore mines every second she’s on screen for both laughs and menace. There’s no more extra villain around. She even holds Elton John captive just so she can have someone serenade her from time to time. If that wasn’t enough, she names her robotic dogs “Benny” and “Jets.” Poppy is one of a kind.
If casting directors take one thing from this film, it’s that Pedro Pascal can and should be cast in everything. Agent Whiskey gets bogged down by some of the more outlandish plot points of the film. However, Pascal illuminates the screen whenever he’s present. Who would’ve expected Prince Oberyn to appear next as a Texan with an electric lasso? He’s a true chameleon actor. A similar chameleon actor, Mark Strong, gets his biggest showcase yet. Strong delivers, including selling the defining, heartfelt moment of the film near the end. Merlin gets more to do than be a glorified Q. He becomes the most entertaining member of the Kingsmen crew. Taron Egerton and Colin Firth continue to have great chemistry. However, they’re routinely upstaged by the eclectic supporting cast of the film.
“Kingsmen: Golden Circle” adheres to everything popular convention defines as a sequel. It expands the universe. It opts for bigger stunts and more special effects. Everything’s bigger, louder, longer and a callback to the original. There’s even way more John Denver than any other movie this year. Yet, there’s even more charm. The livewire spirit from the first installment still runs through this film. Everything is bloated out of proportion. While this doesn’t warrant a 141 minute running time, it keeps each one of those minutes exciting. There’s so many weird and wild details, jokes and eccentricities that line each scene. After extending the world to the Statesman, I’m excited to see which other covert organizations this world has out there. Unlike so many sequels, I left asking for more.