Kingsman: The Golden Circle (NC16)
Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Pedro Pascal
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the supersized (and overlong) sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy, the listless street punk-turned-millennial superspy for the eponymous independent intelligence agency. This time, he takes on Julianne Moore’s Poppy, an off-her-rockers, Martha Stewart-meets-Pablo Escobar drug lord with a thing for 1950s nostalgia, and a maniacal business expansion plan.
Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges play members of The Statesman, the Kingsman’s American counterpart, which Eggsy reaches out to for help. (The Yanks bankroll their operations by selling booze, so all of the Statesman agents are given alcohol-related codenames.) Oh yeah, in case you haven’t received the memo: Eggsy’s mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), is back in the fray as well, even though he was killed in the last movie.
Our heroes, however, have a much bigger threat to deal with: a festering case of sequelitis. The Golden Circle, on its own, is a decent movie; as a sequel, it isn’t nearly as fun and fresh as the original. The first Kingsman was a wildly inventive thrill ride; the follow-up, sadly, feels warmed-over. (In The Golden Circle, a crippled henchman has a Terminator-inspired bionic arm, which is nowhere as cool as the blade legs of Sofia Boutella’s double-amputee assassin in The Secret Service.)
Elsewhere, even though he’s prominently featured in the ads, Channing’s Tequila doesn’t have a lot of screen-time. Neither does Jeff Bridges’ boss Champagne. Which leaves Pascal’s lasso-throwing Whiskey sharing the spotlight with the Brits in action sequences that are more confusing than exciting.
Remember that unsatisfied feeling you got when the houselights came up after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Same reaction here — The Golden Circle is disappointing but it’s also pretty entertaining. (Actually, the best parts are those exploring the poignant mentor-protégé relationships between Eggsy and newly-resurrected Harry, and Eggsy and Mark Strong's Merlin.)
But cheer up: it can’t be all that bad when you have Elton John dropping F-bombs in a cameo as himself. (***)