Kingsman: The Golden Circle does a pretty good job of moving our cast of characters along (when it’s not killing them) and keeps up the laughs, but the pacing and action seemed off.
The Kingsman sequel seems to pick up not too long after the events of the first film; Harry Hart is dead, Roxie and Eggsy are now full-blown Kingsman and Princess Tilde has become a serious girlfriend to our hero. After an opening attack by Charlie, the Kingsman dropout from the first film, his mechanical arm hacks the Kingsman and pretty much wipes them out. We discover he works for a drug cartel, The Golden Circle, run by Poppy, a middle-aged woman obsessed with the nostalgia of the 50’s and a lot of pouting for not being more popular even though she runs the most profitable business in the world. The Kingsman enact their doomsday protocol, which takes them to their cousins in America, The Statesman, and they begin their journey to take down Poppy and stop her world threatening plot.
That’s a lot more plot description than I usually get into, but maybe that is why the film feels a bit sluggish? Though, those major plot pieces all worked for me, but there might have been a couple of side plots that could have been jettisoned. There is a plot around the U.S. President and one of his advisors that seems quite redundant, even with Emily Watson in the part, since the threat of the drug lord’s master plan hits closer to our main character’s home. Also, the big celebrity cameo gets, probably, three too many scenes. But even beyond these extraneous elements, the film has weird pacing and editing that felt like every scene or shot went on just a bit too long. Like I said, I enjoyed most of the film’s content, and really thought the series’ sense of humor was working again here, but something kept me from settling in.
Also, the action never really goes for it like it did in the first film. There was a ridiculousness to the previous effort that set this film apart from the pack and this feels much safer. The film doesn’t even try to top the insanity of the church scene in The Secret Service, and while that might be a futile exercise, I was disappointed they didn’t at least try to give us something.
The character work in the film is quite good, especially for Eggsy and Tilde, as their relationship feels fleshed out and earned after being nothing more than an anal sex joke in the first film. I totally bought into their domestication and was rooting for them in the end, even if the first wedge that gets between them doesn’t feel entirely earned. What Eggsy has to do that gets Tilde frustrated is totally legitimate, but I think she might have slightly overreacted as he handled the situation about as well as an international spy could. Merlin continues to be the emotional and thoughtful rock of the group, and his final scene in the film is one of the most poignant. Also, Poppy, the film’s villain, is a delightful psychopath with a smile, played perfectly by Julianne Moore. She knows what the part wants and doesn’t miss a beat to be funny.
The Statesman are a bit of a mixed bag, with a lot of great actors, not getting a lot to do. Channing Tatum is not in this film a ton, but I like what we get from him (yes, he dances). Same goes for Jeff Bridges (no, he doesn’t dance), who gets about the same amount of screen time, but not nearly an interesting enough part. Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal are the face of The Statesman and while they are both adequate, I can’t help but wish we got more Chan Chan. Pascal gets more to work with and action to play, and he handles it nicely. The guy is a charisma machine, this isn’t surprising. Berry, sadly, gets saddled with a rehash of Merlin’s role and nothing really beyond that. Her and Mark Strong have no chemistry in their scenes together and her only desire is to get in the field, which this film does not realize. Odd.
I mentioned how strong Eggsy’s arc in the film was above, and that is made possible by another great turn by Taron Egerton. He has that star power that can carry a movie, and he works wonderfully off everyone he is thrown against. Colin Firth’s role in the film I don’t want to really get into (the trailer didn’t seem to care as much as I do), but he does a great job at showing us many sides of Harry that we’ve never seen, showing off that he is one of our great actors when given great material. Edward Holcroft I also quite enjoyed as a rebooted Charlie, with the bearded and baldness being a much better look for the guy! Keep it.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an entertaining spy affair, that works better as a character sequel to the first film’s lead duo than a Kingsman sequel. The introduction to the Statesman didn’t really sing and the action could have been more fun and campy, but I was never not enjoying myself along the way. I’ll happily watch Firth and Egerton run around in spy adventures as long as they’ll let them, but maybe they need to bring in someone else besides Matthew Vaughn (a director I always like!) behind the camera, he might be a bit tapped on where to take this series.