“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” might not have its predecessor’s initial element of surprise, but the silver platter of a sequel still serves up its unashamed share of princely entertainment.
Like its “Secret Service” starter, “The Golden Circle” is a Bond-like bonanza of action, style, and sensationalism. Consider it the Roger “More” of British spy pieces—more boyish, more vulgar, and more ridiculous than any of 007’s most out-there outings.
“The Golden Circle’s” commitment to crazy is clear from its opening high-speed sequence. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is back, as is an old—well, technically young—foe, with an appendage that’s part Terminator, part Tee Hee. The latter certainly would fit in, even though, tonally, this “Kingsman” is less Paul McCartney “Live and Let Die” and more Guns N’ Roses.
But like both, the star-studded sequel is no stranger to sex, drugs, and rock and roll—especially the drugs. After their Kingsman command is all but destroyed, Eggsy and his Q-like companion, Merlin (Mark Strong), discover that a kingpin queen is behind their demise: Poppy (Julianne Moore). The villainess opioid overlord, however, although flanked by mechanical guard dogs, provides neither bark nor bite, proving to be far “leth” memorable than the first entry’s lisp-laden baddie (Samuel L. Jackson).
Ditto for the Dude to Moore’s Maude: Jeff Bridges. As Champ—the head of the Kingsman’s American counterpart, the Statesman—Bridges is unfortunately underused, as is Channing Tatum’s Statesman soldier, Tequila. Their whiskey-distilling front aside, there’s plenty of proof to both Bridges’ and Tatum’s comedic talents, and “Kingsman” should’ve given them a bigger shot.
Deservedly, Pedro Pascal does get exactly that. The Chilean-born actor knows how to cowboy up. As Whiskey, Pascal and his lasso give “The Golden Circle” some of its richest, most-electric moments—especially those with “Circle’s” senior shocker: Harry (Colin Firth).
How the elder—and killed—Kingsman returns won’t be spoiled here. Director Matthew Vaughn was reportedly angry at the “stupidity” of 20th Century Fox’s marketing department for revealing Firth’s return in the film’s trailer. He’s right; trailers are too often tell-alls. That said, it’s arguable whether Harry should have even been included in the sequel.
There’s nothing really special about Firth’s part, particularly when compared with his awesome introductory act in “Secret Service.” If anything, Harry’s heroics are tarnished by “The Golden Circle.” The paternal now seems pathetic. Accordingly, the time devoted to his subpar story could’ve been used to boost Bridges,’ Tatum’s, or Halle Berry’s, whose Ginger is far more easy on the stomach than her bile-like Bond girl, Jinx.
Thankfully, the other high jinks in “The Golden Circle” are quite tasty. Whereas bloody battles and the War on Drugs should induce a degree of horror, Vaughn laces them with hilarity. And when seriousness should trump shenanigans, “Kingsman” reminds us to relax with the Rocket Man. No, not that one. The tyranical tickler of the ivories himself, Sir Elton John.
It’s the type of fun that once accompanied James Bond’s missions (until the character got depressingly dour with Daniel Craig who, coincidentally, likely secured the part because of his performance in Vaughn’s “Layer Cake”).
In “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” her Majesty has not only a super secret service, but a cocktail of coolness that’s shaken, stirred, and spiked for good measure.
3.5 out of 5