Director: Matthew Vaughan
Cast Headliners: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jullianne Moore, Pedro Pascal , Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, many others
Original Release Date: September 22nd, 2017
The first film in this series, 2014's Kingsmen : The Secret Service, was a pleasantly great surprise. It looked decent or so, but ended up being a greatly fun wild mix of action, humor, and larger than life aspects. Of course the announcement of a sequel has to leave one curious with excitement for where it can go. In this second film, Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, this potential is definitely reached as a whole.
The movie picks up some manner of time in the wake of the prior film. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a more experienced and adept agent in the British covert spy society “The Kingsmen”. He works with the likes of his peers including technical support Merlin (Mark Strong), his old friend and fellow agent Roxy (Sophie Cookson), and new leader Arthur (Michael Gambon). Yet between his responsibilities he still has time to see his girlfriend.. the Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alstrom) and his various friends from his home area. Things seem great of course, but an epic , almost 2.5 hour plot unfolds that goes to some crazy, action-packed, and wild places.
Events eventually transpire to where the main team of Eggsy and Merlin must seek out their American counterparts, The Statesmen. This adds to the star-packed cast with their agents such as the charismatic Tequila (Channing Tatum), their technical support Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), leader “Champ” Champagne (Jeff Bridges) , and the badass lasso-wielding Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). They are needed to contend with the insane villain Poppy (Jullianne Moore) of the titular Golden Circle.
This expanded cast does two good things for the movie. It both expands the (ever-more-unrealistic) world's lore into interesting and epic places. It also leads to some interesting and funny dynamics between all the factions. An insane, wacky spy montage of people and places. For as prim and proper the Kingsmen are in their stereotype of England, the Statesmen are as “Murrica” as possible with their whiskey Kentucky operations, cowboy hats and revolvers, and sense of justice. The same hyper pulp applies to nearly every facet of this world.
The characters themselves are a mixed bag of use. Egerton's Eggsy is once again a likeable and cool protagonist, here being much more skilled in battle and dialogue but not forgetting his youthful arrogant roots. His friendship with Merlin is a highlight, and Strong is as wiseand helpful and occasionally as always too. Tatum's Tequila captures the gung-ho nature of his USA peers and has some coolness and laughs however he unfortunately is a bit of a smaller part. The same applies to the supporting staff on both sides of the pond, from Roxy, Arthur, Ginger Ale, Princess Tilde, and the dude Champ not having much more than the occasional drop of exposition or a joke.
There are luckily exceptions to this. Pascal's Whiskey is a highlight right up there with Eggsy and Merlin. He adopts a gloriously over-hammed and just on the borderline of cheesy “cowpoke” accent for this role, and has some action scenes and jokes that stand highly through what his role is. Marketing has spoiled that perhaps Colin Firth's Harry / Galahad may not be as dead as what was shown in the last film. The reveal of why and how is an emotional , and important feels story arc that must be seen firsthand. But be assured that this is done well and he is once again a highlight. Moore's Poppy is an insanely , funnily evil Martha Stewart-esque innocent exterior kind of villian...replite with an old-school diner and town filled with robot dogs and salonists in the middle of jungle ruins. She is a bit over the top , but often intimidates and charms. These aspects of the villianous side are of course more memorable than generic henchmen such as Engel (Tom Benedict Knight) and traitorous Kingsmen Charlie (Edward Holcroft...although who almost reaches Bond villian memorable tier with his metal rockem-sock-em cyborg arm). There is also Elton John as Elton John...who well, it must be seen but he's silly and amazing in what he adds. Various other characters show up as well such as the President (Bruce Greenwood) and Charlie's girlfriend Clara (Poppy, ironically enough, Delevigne) who add to the story in surprising ways.
The plot of the movie is long but as a whole worth it. There are many twists and turns, as with the first one and others of this genre, that keep the interest and stakes going. There's some deeper themes explore with the drug trade , relationships, and amnesia that are explored to various results. Some parts are a slowdown from what's around them, but when the humor , ridiculousness, and action come its worth it.
Without a doubt on those last two points, director Matthew Vaughan delivers once again. There's a style that has become a now-trademark for him via this series and Kick-Ass... Crazy, frenetic shots. Choice uses of popular and original music (even in less fast paced scenes). Constant “really now!?!?” kind of feelings. The scale has been raised from 11 to 12 for this movie in nearly every way, for better or worse. At times this surrealness once again leads to some less than remarkable backgrounds, but when it counts it delivers.
It's a sequel that tries to be “can lightning strike twice”. It almost does, and hits the same level of insanity, brutalness, crudeness, charm, and fun as one would want. Fans of the series will be delighted, and even as a standalone, it's a shiny, crisp, wild spy blockbuster that's packed with memorable moments. Mixing between cheesy and truly great, it's worth the time. 8.1 out of 10