Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Premise: A sequel to the 2014 film. When the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed, the remaining British agents join with American counterparts to take on a drug kingpin (Julianne Moore) who unleashes a worldwide terrorism plot.
What Works: Filmmaker Mathew Vaughn has been a good match with the Kingsman franchise. Vaughn has an irreverent and R-rated sensibility that he introduced in the first Kingsman movie and continues in The Golden Circle. There are a lot of humorous bits in this movie and they are often weaved into the action. Vaughn’s action scenes are terrifically crafted; their energy, violence, and wild camera moves are reminiscent of early Guy Ritchie pictures but Vaughn maintains the continuity of the action. The set pieces of The Golden Circle aren’t just a flurry of quick cuts and random acts of violence. There is a dramatic shape to the fights and chases and the action is staged in a way that is clear. The set pieces also have a cheeky sense of humor, especially the opening car chase that is set to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” The Golden Circle expands the story world and it introduces the Statesmen, the American counterpart to the Kingsman. The Statesmen are cowboy-like and the movie has some fun with American braggadocio, playing on the way the international audience perceives the United States. The Golden Circle also introduces a new villain, a drug cartel kingpin played by Julianne Moore. Her character is goofy and Moore is the best part of the movie.
What Doesn’t: Almost everything about The Golden Circle is a step backward from the first film. In the original Kingsman, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) grew from a punk kid and into a gentleman and he learned self-respect and responsibility. Eggsy has no character arc in this film. The picture has an effective set up with Eggsy losing nearly every one of his comrades but the filmmakers never come up with anything compelling to do with that premise. The idea seems to be that Eggsy must become the mentor but he mostly just does whatever other people tell him to do. As advertised in all of the promotional materials, The Golden Circle brings back Harry (Colin Firth) after supposedly killing him off in the original film. Bringing Harry back cheapens the sacrifice of the first film and the way he is reinstated in the story is stupid. One of the best aspects of the original Kingsman was the way it played upon some of the clichés of spy movies like the James Bond and Jason Bourne films as well as comic book movies, namely the X-Men series. The first Kingman movie was self-aware and positioned itself as a hip spin on those genres. The Golden Circle doesn’t do that. It’s a generic spy and superhero adventure and whenever it tries to throw surprises our way it just fouls them up. The plot doesn’t make any sense. The drug cartel leader played by Julianne Moore wants to see drugs legalized and so she poisons her products with the promise of unleashing the antidote if the leaders of the world, namely the President of the United States, legalize her narcotics. There are intimations that the filmmakers are trying to say something about the real life war on drugs but it’s utterly incoherent. Nothing in this movie is as subversive or satirical as the original picture nor does it have the caustic fun of the 2014 film. Also retrograde in The Golden Circle is the filmmaker’s regard for women. This wasn’t particularly good in the first film but it’s considerably worse in the sequel. Nearly all the women of The Golden Circle are little more than accessories to the men and even Julianne Moore’s character is undermined and downplayed in the climax.
Bottom Line: Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a disappointing sequel. The filmmakers lose sight of what was so fun and daring about the original film while amplifying all of the worst elements of the 2014 picture.
Episode: #668 (September 8, 2017)