KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Review

kingsman golden circle poster

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Genre: Action

Year: 2017

When KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE first came out in theaters in 2014, many people thought of Matthew Vaughn’s film as a revitalization of the spy genre. After all, the first Kingsman movie played off the classic James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s: it had suave, sophisticated heroes; dastardly bad guys with a crazy plan to destroy the world; and irrepressibly attractive women. Despite these clear influences, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE tried to insist to viewers through its gory violence and foul language that it was not a James Bond movie. There are even several scenes where characters joke or quip about James Bond and how they are different than the beloved British spy. Ultimately, SECRET SERVICE falls into the same cliches that weaken even the best Bond films, and its sequel, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, fails to learn from the original’s mistakes.

That isn’t to say that GOLDEN CIRCLE doesn’t have some strong moments. The first 10 minutes alone feature a well-directed, wildly exciting car chase through the streets of London. One of the final fight sequences in the jungles of Cambodia could rival the recklessly chaotic and popular church scene from SECRET SERVICE. Each actor in the ensemble cast plays their role more than adequately, particularly Taron Egerton, returning as Kingsman agent Eggsy, and Julianne Moore as a dashingly evil cartel queen. However, good performances and a few terrific action scenes can’t redeem GOLDEN CIRCLE’s lackluster pacing and poor writing.

This *might* have been a good plot twist if they hadn’t revealed it in the trailer

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GOLDEN CIRCLE kicks off a year after the end of SECRET SERVICE, with Eggsy now a true Kingsman spy. After an encounter against an old enemy with a new mechanical arm, the Kingsman agency digs into the Golden Circle, a mysterious drug cartel led by Poppy Adams (Moore). The Golden Circle shows itself to be a step ahead of Kingsman, and Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) must resort to asking for help from a similar American intelligence agency, aptly named “Statesman.” Channing Tatum as Agent Tequila and Jeff Bridges as Statesman leader Champagne “Champ” are hilarious and perfectly cast as gruff American cowboy-agents, but each performance unfortunately has little more than five minutes of screen time. The two Statesman agents we stay with for most of the movie are Ginger (Halle Berry) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and, despite their strong acting abilities, their characters lack the writing required to deliver great performances.

Indeed, Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman try to cram too much into an already lengthy 140-minute movie, and it shows. Eggsy and Merlin not only have to deal with the Golden Circle and the Statesman agency, but also with the return of a Kingsman agent they thought was dead: Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Harry’s reappearance is at first heartwarming for Eggsy and audiences alike, but it ultimately has no greater purpose other than servicing die-hard fans of the first KINGSMAN film. This subplot, along with several others, weaken what should be a strong sequel. An essential backstory to Agent Whiskey proves itself to be riddled with cliches, something that the writers clearly chose to throw on the backburner. Eggsy’s relationship with Princess Tilde of Sweden seems shallow and almost ridiculous, especially considering the ending of the previous KINGSMAN movie. In a franchise with the potential for truly memorable characters, Vaughn chooses to focus on a more complex and hurried story with several plotlines that are either half-hearted or lazy. Great actors such as Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore are hired for small roles or—as is the case with Pascal—their characters are poorly developed and one-dimensional. All in all, GOLDEN CIRCLE doesn’t appear to be a worthy follow-up to SECRET SERVICE for even the most loyal fans; it feels more like a safe sequel purely generated for profit.

I wish I was as photogenic as Taron Egerton

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KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, of course, is hardly the first sequel to fail in terms of meeting the standards of its predecessor. It does, however, show an underlying problem with Hollywood blockbusters and their sequels. Gone are the days of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, when the follow-up to a successful film strived to be original and not a simplistic re-hash. Alas, nowadays studio executives choose to follow the simple phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the first movie worked well enough, there is no real need to do anything more than create a carbon copy, albeit sometimes with a bigger budget and better special effects. For example, when audiences go to James Bond movies, they expect Bond to receive cool gadgets, fight a crazed villain, go to bed with a pretty woman, and order a martini shaken, not stirred. SECRET SERVICE could have turned these cliches on their head, but instead chose to follow the safer and more profitable path. GOLDEN CIRCLE does the same and thereby loses the chance to create a truly memorable continuation of the KINGSMAN franchise. Some audiences will undoubtedly love THE GOLDEN CIRCLE in spite of all its flaws and completely disagree. That is fine with me. But, for those who were disappointed over the first KINGSMAN or are skeptical of this new one, my advice would be to see something different. Maybe something less safe.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Ethan Cartwright

Ethan is an intern for Crossfader and a professional cinephile. His aspirations include becoming a film and television critic and figuring out how to cook food other than ramen.

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