With Elton John, a team of lasso-wielding cowboys named after alcoholic beverages, and a rare clean-shaven Jeff Bridges, it’s hard not to like Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Its quirky predecessor was a surprise box-office hit and this time round, English director Matthew Vaughn’s film is a delight for fans, but may leave wider audiences bemused, as it is not without its flaws.
Set a year after the first film, The Golden Circle shows protagonist Eggsy (Taron Egerton) as an established suited and booted secret agent working for Kingsmen, an independent British intelligence organisation. With Kingsmen compromised, Eggsy has no option but to work alongside his American counterpart, the Statesmen, to bring down psychotic drug lord Poppy Adams, played wickedly by Julianne Moore in a villainous turn unusual for the actress. Egerton and Moore are supported by a star-studded cast featuring Channing Tatum, Mark Strong and Colin Firth, the latter of which should have shocked audiences, had his return from death not been revealed in the film’s promotional material.
With Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) returning to the helm of this comedy spy adventure series, The Golden Circle measures up to the wit and ridiculousness of the first installment and will keep you laughing until the credits roll. Opening with an explosive car chase, the sequel plays it pretty safe by mimicking the setup of the original film, with the action, swearing and sexual content ramped up a notch.
While The Golden Circle makes you feel as invincible as the bulletproof suits of the Kingsmen, it struggles to juggle so many lead characters, causing the pace to drop to a sluggish crawl as a series of plots and subplots emerge. This contributes to the unnecessarily long run time of 141 minutes, and the awkward mismanagement of time unfortunately leads to several underdeveloped characters, such as Halle Berry’s tech expert Ginger Ale.
Thrilling fight sequences, almost cartoonish in their choreography, pay tribute to the film’s origins as the Kingsman comic series, and are accompanied by an invigorating score composed by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson, which now includes countrified updates of the original themes to compliment the Kentucky-based Statesmen. Following the likes of Baby Driver and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Kingsman includes several musical hits for nostalgia’s sake: one of the rare emotional moments of the film features a moving rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” performed by a scene-stealing Mark Strong in a thick Scottish accent – seriously.
A solid sequel offering true cinematic escapism, Kingsman: The Golden Circle does not disappoint, and with several open-ended plot points, a third installment is surely on the cards. But for those looking for the polished suaveness of Bond, think again – to quote Eggsy in the first installment, “This ain’t that kind of movie, bruv.”