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Kingsman: The Secret Service was a gleefully silly (and raunchy) callback to the overblown superspy movies of yore – flawed, but undeniably fun, thanks to its likable cast of characters and some fantastic action sequences. Its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, tries to up the ante in every conceivable way and mostly falls short.
When a terrorist organization known as The Golden Circle wipes out most of the Kingsman agents, survivors Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) turn to their American intelligence counterpart, Statesman (which is posing as a whiskey distillery) for help. Much to their surprise, they discover that Harry (Colin Firth), the former Galahad who was presumed to be dead, is still alive, but suffering from amnesia.
While they try to help their former comrade, the Kingsman agents must work side by side with Statesman to prevent The Golden Circle’s deadly plot – a virus that could kill hundreds of millions of people.
While The Secret Service was also prone to nonsense, the plot holes in The Golden Circle are simply too massive to ignore. Why is it that Kingsman and Statesman are unaware of each other’s existence? Having them work independently makes sense, but there is no good reason why the two organizations shouldn’t know about each other in the first place, considering they’re both working towards a common goal.
Poppy Adams’ (Julianne Moore) master plan to legalize drugs in order to legitimize her drug cartel so that they could poison the majority of recreational drug users around the world and hold their lives for ransom. One, someone with that level of resources could surely find an alternative, less stupid ways to achieve that goal. Unlike Valentine in the first movie, who was actively trying to kill people, Poppy is just using them as a means to end.
In addition, not only is she poisoning own consumers a ridiculous gamble, how does Poppy expect to run a legitimate business after she threatened to kill millions of people worldwide?
The Golden Circle is also overstuffed with characters both new and old, many of which barely have anything to do. Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum and Michael Gambon barely do enough to qualify for cameo appearances – inexplicably, Elton John has more screentime, including an absolutely moronic action scene in which he just randomly starts doing flips and kicks while winking to the camera.
Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson’s characters are unceremoniously written out of the movie. In Cookson’s case, it’s downright insulting – it’s one of those times you’re certain a character will make a surprise third act return, except she just doesn’t.
Halle Berry’s character is a gender-swapped Merlin who wants to go out in the field. Rather than see her display any skills or aptitude for field work, at the end of the movie she just asks and Jeff Bridges says “sure, why not”. Character arc completed?
It’s not all bad – Taron Egerton’s Eggsy is still an incredibly likable and fun lead and although the action scenes never match the ludicrous entertaining church fight in The Secret Service, they’re bonkers enough to keep you engaged (even if they end up trying a little too hard).
In a surprising turn of events, Swedish princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), a punchline to a very crude sex joke at the end of The Secret Service, actually returns in The Golden Circle, as she and Eggsy are now apparently in a serious relationship.
It’s a cute turn of events that kind of softens the blow of the first movie’s stupid anal joke. There’s even a nice moment where Eggsy calls up Tilde to ask if she would be okay with him sleeping with a target for the sake of a mission. Of course, that part is completely undermined by the context, in which a super well-funded covert intelligence agency only has trackers that can be inserted via fingerbanging.
Yes, really – Eggsy has to put what looks like a condom on his finger and then insert that finger in a possible lead’s vagina to plant a tracker.
The Secret Service was a silly, silly movie, but it still struck a decent balance. It took its characters seriously enough to give them an arc and likable personalities. The Golden Circle has no sense of restraint. It happily and idiotically jumps the shark at every junction, so much so that I was legitimately worried the movie might end with Colin Firth fucking Elton John.
Speaking of Colin Firth, Harry’s return is a bit of letdown. After a few scenes of an amnesiac Harry reminiscing about butterflies that could have easily been cut, he regains his memory but isn’t quite at 100%. Coordination issues, lapses in concentration – can the former Kingsman be trusted with this mission?
That sure is a tough question until it isn’t. Yeah, after a couple of scenes in which Harry messes up, he just sort of stops doing that and returns to his former self. There’s little to no fanfare or any sense of character growth. In one scene he’s not ready and in the next, he is.
A similar thing happens when our heroes suspect one of the Statesman operatives is a double agent. There’s no intrigue, mystery or tension. Harry says he thinks a Statesman is working against them – and he’s right. There’s a scene or two of people wondering if it’s not just Harry’s damaged brain, but it amounts to nothing.
At nearly two and a half hours, The Golden Circle really overstays its welcome, squandering the goodwill earned by its predecessor. Its long, muddled, nonsensical and not even close to as fun as the original Kingsman.