“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” attempts to recapture the magic of the original movie but instead ends up as a poor tribute with a few good action scenes that cannot salvage the film as a whole.
The sequel picks up after the events of the original movie, as the secret service company is still celebrating its victory over the villain Valentine. All is well until every active member of Kingsman, except Eggsy and Merlin, is murdered. Eggsy and Merlin have to track down the American support of the Statesman secret service agency to stop the drug queen known as Poppy before she and her gang, known as the Golden Circle, kill millions across the globe.
“Golden Circle” assures the viewer that it will remain devoted to its roots when it dives into an over-the-top, shaky-cam action sequence within the first minute of the film. The sequence is topped off with an explosive (literally) climax before the viewer is given some comedic reprieve with a reveal that Eggsy’s, played by Taron Egerton, tryst with the princess of Sweden from the first movie has developed into a full-blown relationship.
This reference to the first film is one of many that the viewer can expect from “Golden Circle.” The film incessantly pays homage to fun scenes from the original to remind the viewers why they bought their tickets in the first place, but it forgets to bring anything new to the table.
For example, the movie almost completely recreates the “manners maketh man” scene from the original, with the exception that Colin Firth’s character, Harry, is now out of touch due to an injury he sustained in the first movie. In short, the scene is the same; it just has the fun taken out of it. None of these scenes feels as powerful or memorable as the originals they are trying to recreate, feeling forced and sad instead.
The entire plotline of Harry’s illness feels forced, as well. From the miraculous resurrection of Harry to the return of his memory, the events come across as a matter of plot convenience to slow his return to the screen. But when he does finally return, the audience is in for a treat; with a fully recovered Harry teaming up with Eggsy to take down the drug queen Poppy, played by Julianne Moore, in a beautifully choreographed fight scene. But it leaves the viewer thinking, “If this is the fun they can have with this character, why did they wait so long to bring him back?”
Poppy acts as the primary villain of the film, serving up the usual threat of world-ending carnage. Her weapon of choice is poisoning her drug supply and distributing it across the globe, threatening the lives of millions. The resulting conversation the movie brings up is one far too deep for a film that relies on sewage, innuendos and profanity from Elton John as its primary source of humor.
“Golden Circle” raises the question of whether the war on drugs is a justified cause and then supplies no answer to this question. It never takes a stance on whether drugs, drug abusers or the drug trade in general are bad. The film doesn’t even shows drugs that much, except for the occasional joint, meth pipe or joke about overdose. Rather than take a stance, “Golden Circle” simply leaves the viewer confused and slightly uncomfortable about the topic at hand.
Even taking into account reliance on nostalgia, irrelevant amnesia plotlines and questionable moral messages, the most questionable aspect of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is its poor utilization of character screen time. The American spy group driving the plot, Statesman, is comprised of an acting powerhouse, but most of its members get little to no screen time.
Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges share a shockingly small amount of screen time. Tatum’s character is frozen for at least two-thirds of the film, and Berry’s character is terribly underwritten for an actress of her caliber, but the most shocking character choice in the film comes in the form of Elton John.
John enters the film playing himself early on as what first appears as a one-time sight gag, but then he never goes away. With no disrespect to Elton John, what begins as a funny cameo quickly turns into an uninteresting side character who is written to use profanity as a crutch to cover up for weak acting ability.
In short, “Kingsman: the Golden Circle” is a mediocre and confusing sequel that fails to recreate the wonder that made the original film so memorable. If you enjoyed the original and are willing to get past some of the more uncomfortable scenes and the 141-minute runtime, the movie is worth a watch, but not much more than that.