In this, the seemingly never-ending age of the sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle strikes a refreshing balance of staying true the original film and creating a work that stands proudly on its own. In this sequel, Matthew Vaughn has created yet another terrific romp of action, comedy, and (most importantly) British witticisms.
The film follows Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a year after the events of the first. Eggsy is now an established Kingsman agent, tasked yet again with saving the world, this time from a psychotic drug lord named Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) who plans to wipe out millions of the world’s population in a misguided attempt to globally legalize the drug trade. With this new mission come new allies: a similarly specialized American operation entitled the Statesmen. Eggsy is also confronted throughout the story with various bits of his past, both positive and negative, which result in a variety of fun (albeit slightly predictable) twists.
As was the case in the original film, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), this is a movie jampacked with stylized fight sequences. These scenes do an incredible job of bringing to life the vibrancy and excitement of the comic books on which the films are based. They alternate between feasible (that is, feasible for highly-trained special agents), and completely preposterous (that is, preposterous for any non-superhero), but it still manages never to stray so far into the absurd that it loses the audience.
Despite it being an irreverent action comedy, the movie takes itself seriously. The moments of intense action are intense, even if the accompanying music is a little unusual. The emotional scenes are emotional, even if one of the characters is singing John Denver in a Scottish accent at the top of his lungs. This is due in large part to casting proper actors in this genre, which doesn’t traditionally necessitate proper acting.
Eggsy is easy to root for because of how Egerton plays him: cocky and dangerous, but also vulnerable and conscientious–like most people in their mid-twenties, except with the added bonus of being basically a super solider. Egerton brings a depth to this character that makes this more than just one long bloody shoot-out interrupted by some scenes of dialogue. You have a reason to root for this kid outside of what an excellent shot he is (he is an outstanding shot). Colin Firth brings the same edgy, paternal charm to Harry Hart as he did the first time he played him, and Mark Strong the same strength and stoicism to his character, Merlin.
There is a cameo in this film by Sir Elton John; he plays a (presumably) fictionalized version of himself as one of Poppy’s prisoners. When first introduced, it seems cheap: an easy, hackneyed tool for a sequel to employ that ultimately adds nothing to the movie other than a passing, ‘Ha! Look! Elton John!’ Vaughn and Jane Goldman (the film’s co-screenwriter) avoid this cliche and instead lean hard into this cameo. Sir Elton is, in a word, spectacular. Totally, utterly absurd. But spectacular.
There were some aspects of the movie that didn’t quite hit the mark. The premise was a little slapped together, though so was the first: a megalomaniacal psychopath businessperson mistakes their own insanity for altruism and tries to basically kill like half the planet. But hey, it works.
There were also too many characters. How little the film uses Channing Tatum (ultimately his purpose in this was to set up for a third film) is the right move; his unequivocal superstardom would’ve distracted from Egerton as the lead. As supporting characters, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges do nothing of substance and served basically as props. But, hey, if you can get Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges to star in your movie, prop them up if that’s what you need to do. Pedro Pascal was great as one of the other ‘statesmen’, but by the time his character was established, it was very much a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen situation.
Overall, this movie was just really fun. It’s certainly not going to take home any Academy Awards (though the stars of the movie have five Oscars between them, and 17 nominations*), it delivers exactly what it promises: a silly and at-times downright ridiculous action film that, if nothing else, gives the audience their money’s worth.
*Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Colin Firth, and Julianne Moore have each won an acting Oscar. One of the wins (and three of the nominations) belong to Sir Elton for his song-writing on The Lion King. Three nominations for one movie! A sixty percent chance of winning the award!