Movie review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The sequel to the hit spy thriller suffers from trying to hard to follow the same formula

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
With Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges

Those well-dressed stylish spies return for more in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service.

But the luster has worn off a bit, making Kingsman: The Golden Circle one of those sequels where more is definitely less. Both films try to capture that cool chic feel of the early James Bond films plus a little bit of the satirical humor of Austin Powers and the slow motion violence of a modern action thriller.

Viewers of the first film may be a bit surprised to see Colin Firth at the head of the credits, after events in the first film. His re-introduction is a bit awkward and one of the biggest drags on the film. But how the director Matthew Vaughn, who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman, accomplishes this is one of the film's big secrets. But Firth's character doesn't add the much needed upper class pizzazz this time that the film needs so desperately.

The action picks up a year after the end of the first film, with Eggsy (played by Taron Egerton) now a fully fledged Kingsman, dressed in a custom suit and riding in a gadget-filled limousine.

The film is quite for long, and lots of carnage quickly ensues.

Slowly it is revealed that the trouble is being caused by a group called the Golden Circle.

The head villain, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), is behind an absurd plan to dominate the world. She lives in a jungle lair that she has transformed into a 1950s suburban town.

Spy films are only as good as the villains, and Moore throws herself into being an evil and ruthless businesswoman trying to take the world hostage. She smiles as she orders her underlings to carry out the most gruesome murders of those who made minor transgressions.

Adams seems at home in the burger place she built in some ruins. It is a fun variation on the idea of a secret hideout, but the plot she has cooked up is just a bit too far-fetched, and that hurts her credibility. The plot also seems like a watered down version of the evil scheme from the first film.

The bar fight from the first film is also retreaded, but played for comic effect this time. Other scenes such as escaping a flooded room are echoed as well. It feels like a bit of a reach to make connections with the series' fanbase.

Due to a series of mishaps, Eggsy and the Kingsman need to reach out across the Atlantic to their American counterparts called the Statesman. While the front company for the Kingsman is a custom tailoring shop, the US counterpart is a bourbon distillery.

The US spies are not as interesting, lacking the sense of style that was the main asset of the original film. Jeff Bridges in particular is wasted as the patriarch of the organization, doing a bland version of every Southern good-ol'-boy character he has ever done.

The Kingsman all have names from the King Arthur stories; the Statesman are all named after beverages.

The gadgets the Statesman use, like a hi-tech lasso and souped up baseball bat, seem a bit lame compared to the one the Brits have. The British filmmakers simply lack the feeling for the American characters, and deliver poor stereotypes with no nuance or insight.

Turning up for some comic relief is Elton John, playing himself but in a very foul temper. The filmmakers miss the opportunity for use more of his music though. His role is more than the typical pop star cameo, but the audience waits in vain for more than a few notes on the piano. Some of his recorded music is used for the background of an action scene.

The original cut of the film was twice as long as it should have been, and one can assume some of Sir Elton's keyboard tinkling unfortunately would up on the cutting room floor.

One funny scene involves the Glastonbury music festival. For some reason a tracking device has to be planted on a woman. But the device can only be placed during sex for some reason. It turns into a parody of the seduction scenes in James Bond films. Standing alone, the scene is rather comical, but it seems like a clever idea one of the writers had and then tried to shoe horn into the plot.

The action is once again over the top, but much less original. Matthew Vaughn, before he was a director, was the producer of films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. Both were directed by Guy Ritchie and relied on slow motion and black humor.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle would have been a lot better if it didn't try to have so many inside references to the first film, and if it made up its mind about whether it was a comedy or an action film.

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