Title: Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Studio: 20th Century FOX
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Release Format: Theatrical
The second globe-trotting spy movie in as many weeks, Kingsman: The Golden Circle stands in stark contrast to American Assassin. Whereas American Assassin took itself so seriously it was, at times, exhausting, Kingsman is a gleeful romp from the first scene that draws inspiration not from the hardass intensity of the Sean Connery or Daniel Craig Bond movies, but from the goofball, over-the-top zaniness of the Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. Even going so far as to borrow Brosnan’s Die Another Day co-star, Halle Berry.
The Golden Circle is the sequel to 2014’s over-the-top spy action blockbuster Kingsman: The Secret Service. The first look at Eggsy (Taron Egerton) saw him recruited by a clandestine, self-funded Bond-like covert agency that used the Kingsman tailor shop as a cover for their gentlemen spy schtick. The Secret Service was about 50% new agent training and 50% high-concept supervillainy focused on Valentine’s (Sam Jackson) plan to kill a percentage of the global population in order to save a dying planet.
Picking up where The Secret Service left off, Eggsy has stepped into the role of Galahad, vacated by Harry (Colin Firth) after a seemingly fatal run-in with Valentine. Still, in his support role, Merlin (Mark Strong) is in Eggsy’s ear, helping him hack secure systems and providing him with cool gadgets. Even Eggsy’s pug, J.B., is back to be adorable. Without giving away more than you might have seen in previews, the Kingsman need to seek support from overseas and end up in the home turf of the Statesmen, a similarly clandestine espionage operation run out of a prominent whiskey distillery in the American South. Here, Merlin and Eggsy are reunited with the former Galahad, Harry, now with a dramatic case of amnesia and Nick Fury-esque eyepatch (Ironically caused by Sam Jackson).
The Golden Circle, as a comic book-based film, does what a lot of superhero comic-inspired movies never quite seem to accomplish: It is not an origin story. The first one was an origin story, but in Marvel or DC films, the second would be the origin of a sidekick or a new hero or a new villain. We’re always watching the slow progression of someone getting their motivations and building their power. We do not see the origin of the villain (Hilariously played by Julianne Moore), we just see all the pieces on the board and get to enjoy a clean narrative arc.
The pacing is fantastic. The faux-one shot action sequences can leave you breathless with their intensity, but they’re spaced out throughout the movie with scenes of intrigue, cleverly-written exposition, and drama that never feels too dramatic, even when it involves the death of characters that have been around a while. One thing that helps soften the drama is the introduction of “Alpha Gel,” an emergency medical substance that can sustain someone that has suffered catastrophic brain damage. This is what saved Harry after the events of the first Kingsman.
One thing they never answer is how the Kingsman never searches for Harry’s body, but whatever.
The Statesman is a fun crew to get to know, especially their leader Champagne (Jeff Bridges). Bridges masterfully chews every scene he’s in, it’s fantastic. The Statesman, like the Kingsman, have themed codenames. While the Brits use knights of King Arthur’s Court and the legendary court wizard as codenames, the Statesman use liquor. Pedro Pascal plays the whip-wielding Whiskey and Channing Tatum plays the rifleman, Tequila. Halle Berry, as the Statesman equivalent of Merlin, is codenamed, Ginger Ale.
One of the movie’s best relationships, if it could be called that, is between Harry and Whiskey. Harry, the somewhat addled mentor to Eggsy, comes into conflict with the new badass Statesman with an electrified whip that treats Eggsy more like a peer than an apprentice. The three create something like a respect and trust-based love triangle that you never really know what side to cheer for.
Everything in The Golden Circle comes down to motivation. With so many new characters introduced, including villains and world leaders, you don’t know where anyone is coming from until they monologue. And, true to campy Bond fashion, everyone with a villainous intent gets their turn to explain why they’re really doing what they’re doing. Capitalism, drugs, booze, 50’s nostalgia, puppies, betrayal, Swedish royal dinners, this movie has a little bit of everything.
Verdict: Kingsman: The Golden Circle stays the course of the previous installment, The Secret Service, with over-the-top spy action. The high-impact action scenes are few and far between, but there is enough character-driven comedy filler to keep moviegoers happy while they’re waiting for the next crazy shootout. As long as you’re not expecting depth, The Golden Circle is a lot of fun.
Correction: The initial version of this review incorrectly identified the character Whiskey as Jeremy Renner. The correct actor is Pedro Pescal.
- Great Action Sequences
- All-star Cast
- Multiple Puppies
- Not Enough Action Sequences
- Channing Tatum Gets Sidelined Quickly
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