UK Release Date: 20th September 2017
Runtime: 141 minutes
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman
Starring: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Hanna Alström, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: After a vicious drug lord attacks the Kingsman organisation, Eggsy must join forces with his American comrades, known as Statesman.
When the first Kingsman film arrived back in 2015, it was immediately divisive. It raced to more than $400m at the global box office, but also polarised audiences with its tough violence and a final gag that can charitably be described as something of a bum note. A sequel was inevitable from then and it has now arrived in the shape of The Golden Circle, which is a terribly over-stuffed mess of a movie that does dial down the sadism and the misogyny, but replaces it with an all-encompassing vacuum of tedium into which every flicker of a good idea is hopelessly sucked, leaving behind an uncharismatic void.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a fully-fledged member of Kingsman and in a committed relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). When drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) launches a brutal attack on the Kingsman tailor shop, Eggsy and tech expert Merlin (Mark Strong) travel to America in order to get the help of sister organisation, Statesman. There, they meet boss Champagne (Jeff Bridges) and agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry). Meanwhile, the surprise return of Harry (Colin Firth), who was presumed dead, shakes things up even more.
Fans of the first Kingsman film appreciated its edge. It was a Bond parody without the campy comfort of Austin Powers and with the snark of director Matthew Vaughn‘s own Kick-Ass. Unfortunately, in attempting to comply with the demand for a sequel to always be bigger and better, The Golden Circle throws all of that edge aside in favour of being louder, sillier and considerably less interesting. Vaughn barely stops for an establishing shot in the first act, wildly firing the action all over the world – complete with hideous overuse of match cuts – in an attempt to hurriedly get all of the pieces on the board.
The film has a glittering cast, including five Oscar winners, but squanders almost every single one of them. Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum appear to just be popping in on their day off for brief cameos and Halle Berry is horrendously under-served as Ginger Ale, who has the beginnings of a relationship with Mark Strong’s Merlin, which is never explored beyond a couple of nods. Even at two and a half hours long, The Golden Circle often feels like a film that has left half of its material on the cutting room floor.
Taron Egerton’s charming lead performance is as much of a highlight here as it was last time around, though Colin Firth’s return is underbaked and resolved via an entirely incomplete arc. In a bizarre turn of events seemingly designed almost entirely to justify the first film’s finale, Eggsy is in a committed relationship with Princess Tilde, which never rings true. The film largely rids itself of the hideous violence of the original and lacks much of its misogyny, with the exception of a horribly misjudged Glastonbury scene. Unfortunately, what’s left behind is an overdose of silliness, from robot dogs to an interminable Elton John cameo.
Even the action sequences, which were a highlight of the original Kingsman, are bland and unimaginative in The Golden Circle. The opening scene, in which a taxi chase becomes a thrillingly staged fight, has real energy and visual invention to it but, by the time we get a strange cable car scene halfway through, all of the invention has disappeared. For most of its exceedingly bloated running time, The Golden Circle is a tedious journey through the mind of a filmmaker very pleased with what he has achieved, but lacking the imagination that made the previous movie so exciting – even when it took a swing and a miss.
Pop or Poop?
Despite its myriad crimes, the first Kingsman film was an energetic and edgy blockbuster. Its sequel is neither of those things and just feels like a bloated action spoof determined to be quirky, in lieu of having anything genuinely interesting to say. Hollywood stars are handed huge pay cheques just to wander into shot and it’s all delivered through a sheen of shoddy CGI.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.