The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:


 Not-So-Golden Sequel

Colin Firth
Colin Firth
20th Century Fox
 141 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth 
Kingsman: the Golden Circle

The takeaway quote from the surprisingly entertaining 2015 spy spoof Kingsman: The Secret Service, uttered by suave British agent Harry Hart on more than one occasion is “Manners maketh man.” The takeaway quote from Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the current sequel, might well be “Repetition maketh sequel,” since, for every bit of effective over-the-top nonsense in the first movie, the audience is treated to two or three instances of over-the-top silliness in the sequel. The result is a movie that considerably longer and rather less enjoyable than the original.


Secret Service was a clever blend of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Ian Fleming’s James Bond. To replace a now deceased agent, top spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruited young Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), the son of another deceased agent. Hart helped the streetwise Eggsy smooth out his numerous rough edges, and the two combined to thwart the plan of a charismatic psycho (played in typically charismatic fashion by Samuel L. Jackson) who wanted to destroy most human life on the planet.  


This time around, in Golden Circle, the threat comes from another charismatic psycho named Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the world’s biggest drug dealer, who also threatens to destroy much human life around the planet thanks to a virus she has implanted in nearly every illicit substance on Earth. Unless the world leaders accede to her demands and decriminalize all drugs, she will let all the infected die a horrible death. To make matters worse, Poppy has unleashed a missile attack on England that has destroyed Kingsman headquarters and killed all nearly all the Kingsmen, including their new boss, Michael Gambon, who is onscreen for about ten seconds.


Only Eggsy and technical whiz Merlin (Mark Strong) escape the carnage, and they make their way to America, where the U.S. has a similar covert secret agency called Statesman. However, while Kingsman used the cover of an exclusive tailor and named its agents after the Knights of the Round Table, Statesman operates out of a Kentucky distillery and names its agents after varieties of booze. The head of Statesman, Champagne, or Champ for short (Jeff Bridges in Rooster Cogburn drawl mode), offers the assets of his agency to help stop Poppy. Those assets surprisingly include an amnesiac Harry Hart, shot in the eye in the original movie but resurrected thanks to a typically hokey movie explanation for bringing people back from the dead. Another asset is Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), a Statesman agent who speaks with a Texas drawl and wields a deadly lariat and even deadlier bullwhip.


Many sequels fail to live up to the original for the primary reason that the franchise used up all its original ideas the first time around. Director Matthew Vaughn (who also directed the original Kingsman movie and co-wrote the script of Golden Circle with Jane Goldman) falls into the same trap here as he did in his earlier Kick-Ass franchise, recycling old material and falling back on copious amounts of violence.


Not only does Kingsman: The Secret Service recycle shtick from the first movie; it repeats that shtick over and over The audience gets to see several fight scenes in slow motion in which Hart, Cowboy, Eggsy, and assorted bad guys defy the laws of physics, aided in no small measure by copious amounts of CGI. But, after watching Cowboy use his bullwhip the second or third time (and inevitably bringing back memories of Pascal’s acrobatics as Oberon Martell in Game of Thrones), the law of diminishing returns rapidly sets in.


Eventually, that law even effects the best new character in the film, Poppy. Evidently realizing that she couldn’t top Samuel L. Jackson’s zaniness, Moore instead plays the part like a chipper 1950’s housewife, even when she is forcing one of her minions to dump another into a meat grinder (from which she makes a rather cringe-inducing hamburger). At first, Moore is a breath of fresh air, but her character is merely one excessively sweet note, repeating the same joke on far too many occasions and eventually resembling a psychotic version of Gary Cole’s cringe inducing boss from Office Space. On a similar note, Golden Circle features Elton John in an extended cameo as himself, a kidnap victim of Poppy’s (she so much a fan that she names her robot dogs “Bennie” and “The Jets”). John actually manages to get most of the laugh-out-loud jokes in the movie, but they too grow weary by the movie’s end.


Actually, Elton John has a bigger role in Golden Circle than does Channing Tatum, although Tatum is mentioned prominently in the movie’s advertisements and on its posters. Despite the publicity efforts designed to cash in on his popularity, Tatum is literally on ice for much of the movie. Supposedly his absence was due to contractual obligations that shortened his availability considerably and led to some hasty script rewrites. Yet, his minimal presence here in what could have been a great counterpoint to the very proper Brits (as shown in the clip below) is another missed opportunity.


The gist of the Kingsman concept is still present in Golden Circle and still enjoyable, despite the watering down. Taron Egerton proves he is a capable leading man here and not merely Colin Firth’s protégé, and Mark Strong provides some able support. In an odd bit of cinematic synergy, he gets to sing John Denver’s “Country Road” at a key point in the movie, marking the second time in a month that tune has graced a Channing Tatum effort. And, although most of the climactic set piece falls a bit short, there is a nifty action sequence involving Harry and Eggsy in a cable car coming down the side of a mountain that brought back memories of Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare, updated and stylized.


There is too much talent in front of and behind the screen for Kingsman: The Golden Circle to be terrible, and the last sequence in the movie provides hope for what’s sure to be the third movie in the trilogy. Plus, Colin Firth and Taron Egerton make a great team whose chemistry still works here once the movie gets around to exploiting it. Yet it may be time for writer/director Matthew Vaughn to step back and let someone else with some new vision take the directorial reins. For, despite all the movie has going for it, Kingsman: The Golden Circle seems to be running in circles too much of the time. 

In this scene, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong meet Channing Tatum.

Read other reviews of Kingsman: The Golden Circle:


Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) on IMDb