In a Hollywood film industry that’s moved very far away from the ultraviolent action movies from the 80’s and 90’s toward the more anodyne PG-13 movies of today, it’s just shy of a miracle that a film like Kingsman: The Golden Circle can still get made. Not only is it violent, but it’s sexy in a way that’s still interesting even in a world where pornography is only a few clicks away. But even without the context, KtGC is a great movie in its own right – even if it does feel bloated and over-indulgent in parts.
Sometime after the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is confronted by Charlie (Edward Holcroft), Eggsy’s nemesis during training, who managed to survive the events of the last film unbeknownst to everyone. Charlie, now outfitted with a robotic arm, manages to hack into the Kingsman’s database, finding the location of all the Kingsman agents, which results in the entire agency being eliminated in one night – except for Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), the technical expert for the Kingsman group. With just the two of them left, they activate their doomsday response, which leads them to the United States to team up with unexpected allies. They also discover that Charlie is working with a new underworld group known as the Golden Circle, led by Poppy (Julianne Moore), who threatens to kill every drug user in the US unless the war on drugs is ended.
KtGC is a dense film with old and new details that flesh out the film to be the full – if over-the-top – story that it is. Fans who remember the details and events of the first film, like the princess Eggsy saves, the dog that Harry (Colin Firth) raised while a Kingsman recruit, and how particular gadgets work, will probably enjoy this film the most. Writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman do a good job of laying quick foundation for newcomers, but it’s a lot to take in and still be impactful. On top of the callbacks to the first film, there are several new elements like the American Kingsman counterparts – the Statesman.
While modeling a British secret service after the Knights of the Roundtable makes sense in some respect, modeling the Statesman group after alcohol seems arbitrary. Nevertheless, that’s what the film gives audiences. And so viewers are treated with agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Their version of Merlin is Ginger Ale (Halle Berry). And they’re led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who seems neurotic in his constant fidgeting and treating his senses to various smells, tastes, and touches. Other comparisons feel out of sync, like the Statesman having a whip as the parallel to the Kingsman umbrella, but nothing is more misaligned than the behavior of the agents. The Statesman are cowboys, but not the “Yes ma’am, no ma’am” types. Instead, they’re portrayed as boorish good ol’ boys who are no better than the drunks they end up fighting in a bar brawl.
If a whole new secret service wasn’t enough to introduce, then the very colorful villain, Poppy, fills the film the brim. Her portion of the film is probably the most strained since she’s not very active, as her plan was already put into motion before the film began. Instead, audiences have to endure scenes that showcase her ruthlessness and taste for anachronistic kitsch. Trimming her scenes could have brought the film under a two-hour runtime. Mind you, Poppy’s scenes don’t harm the film – they just don’t add much either.
These criticisms aside, what audiences are looking from KtGC is exactly what they’re going to get: satisfying action and some humor. Right from the beginning, viewers are thrown into an extended action sequence that’s both incredible and fitting for this over-the-top world. It’s probably too much for a James Bond film, which the Kingsman films are obviously paying homage to, but it’s also more satisfying than what recent James Bond films have been giving moviegoers.
Finally, in a less political climate, KtGC could have been viewed by all audiences as a great popcorn movie, but too many will look for the political leanings of the film before having an opinion. Some have complained that a film distributed by 20th Century Fox only features the FOX news channel for any news broadcasts in the film. Those same people probably never complained about only SONY products featured in a SONY film. Thankfully, politics doesn’t dominate the vibe even if the film does dabble in it. It won’t stop the partisans from finding orthodoxy violations, but for everyone else, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is fantastic escapism that offers too much to enjoy in one sitting.