Nothing is too weird for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The film constantly one-ups itself in how over-the-top it can go in trying to recreate the success of its predecessor, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Without going into detail, there are several scenes involving robotic dogs and pop singer Sir Elton John. How much more crazy can it get than that?
Director Matthew Vaughn returns to deliver another hard-hitter in the spy genre. Taron Egerton reprises his role as Gary Unwin, better known as Eggsy, and delivers another solid performance in developing a main character that grabs the audience. From fighting opponents with robotic arms to trying to impress the King and Queen of Sweden, there’s nothing Egerton doesn’t excel at in capturing the essence of the suave spy protagonist. Colin Firth and Mark Strong also return as Harry “Galahad” Hart and “Merlin,” and also add captivation to their roles. Much of the gratification should go to Strong, whose Merlin character is thrust more into the spotlight due to the plot, and he doesn’t shy away from more scenes. As a side note: he can belt John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with ease. Julianne Moore shines as the cruel and insane antagonist Poppy Adams, although she can’t quite reach the truly remarkable and memorable performance of Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as the antagonist in the original Kingsman film.
There are also a few newbies to this second Kingsman flick, introduced in the form of the “Statesmen,” the American counterparts to well-dressed British spies. The Statesmen consist of Agent “Tequila,” played by Channing Tatum, Agent “Whiskey,” played by Pedro Pascal, the tech operator “Ginger Ale,” played by Halle Berry, and their leader Agent “Champagne,” played by Jeff Bridges. However, only Agent Whiskey and Ginger Ale play a significant role in the story, seemingly wasting notable actors like Tatum and Bridges.
Their characters aren’t the only ones who get little screen time; there are many characters who are introduced only to die or never appear again. For a movie with a run time of over 140 minutes, it seems impractical to have so many loose characters that don’t provide as much to the plot. The runtime also presents a flaw in the film. Kingsman: The Golden Circle’s runtime hurts its experience, as the energetic and fluid pace of the story sucks you right in but after a while it starts to drag, leaving you wanting a proper and fluid ending to match the rest of the movie.
The movie barely makes up for its character and pacing flaws by presenting action scenes that top almost any modern action movie, except perhaps the first Kingsman. Every scene involving combat and action feels larger than the movie itself, constantly blending in well-edited action with a catchy pop soundtrack, while throwing in clever gadgets à la Bond movie. Not only that, the movie constantly finds settings that stand out, from mountains in Italy to a jungle in Cambodia. Kingsman: the Golden Circle excels in both visuals and action, although the CGI can get over-the-top at times. Once again, Vaughn and the screenwriters are able to throw in convincing and compelling humor, and most of the jokes and cultural references in the movie earned laughter.
However, the best part of the movie is none of what I’ve previously mentioned; it comes in the form of Sir Elton John. He appears as a hopefully-not fictionalized version of himself, who finds himself captive and forced to perform. Every scene he appears in he steals the show, and the movie supports his appearance in the film by throwing in his music throughout and much of the humor the movie delivers is through sequences involving Elton John and the rest of the cast.
All-in-all, Kingsman: The Golden Circle can’t quite match the pure unexpected delight and cheesiness of Kingsman: the Secret Service, but it certainly holds its own as a delightful and memorable spy homage film while overcoming character and plot pacing issues. There’s almost an art to the messiness and chaotic nature of the film, completely contrasting the famous Harry Hart line: “Manners. Maketh. Man. Do you know what that means?” However, it works to create a must-see flick.