The first Kingsman movie was released three years ago and was a surprising sleeper hit. I was blown away by the level of camp that was introduced back into the spy genre without it ever feeling like just another Austin Powers movie. Matthew Vaughn (director of X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, Stardust) created a tight, violent and crass spy throwback with several doses of enjoyment piled on.
In The Golden Circle, Taron Edgerton reprises his role of Eggsy, a former street punk turned dignified spy. He has become quite proficient at the whole espionage gig and has settled in. However, it doesn’t take long before the agency’s ghosts come back to haunt it.
A new threat arises in Poppy (Julianna Moore), a drug kingpin that is obsessed with 1950’s kitsch. In an attempt to rebuild the agency, Eggsy travels to Kentucky to meet America’s counterpart of the agency with The Statesmen.
Where Kingsman was a complete surprise the first time around, The Golden Circle has that high bar to measure up to. No longer is there a celebratory shock that comes with each head explosion. Instead, you anticipate the action to come and are disappointed when it doesn’t quite match your lofty expectations. I don’t want to make too many comparisons to the first movie following this, as it is a bit unfair.
Matthew Vaughn may not know how to properly continue a franchise he started. This was evident in the unpolished Kick-Ass 2, and this continues (thankfully to a better extent) in The Golden Circle. His main problem isn’t reusing jokes that worked the first time. Instead, he and the movie have lost focus. The runtime of 2 hours 21 minutes is exorbitant for any action movie, especially one that’s meant to be a roller coaster of enjoyment. There’s a solid 30 minutes of scenes (revolving around Eggsy’s girlfriend) that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
The movie starts out with a stylish taxi cab fight that is zany, but pulls you right back into the ’60s Bond era mode. Unfortunately, the movie gets to a point (specifically anything involving the Statesmen) where everything crawls by.
There are far too many characters, many of which are glorified cameos. These movies should only rest on the shoulders of the principal cast Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth and the main villain. Speaking of, Julianne Moore is the right kind of crazy in this role. She’s clearly having a great time and brings the necessary camp to the movie which forgets its parody roots at times.
Negatives aside, The Golden Circle is a highly enjoyable movie where it counts. Everything builds to the climactic end and for a solid 30 minutes, it is unapologetic and doesn’t stop to take a breath. I was halfway okay with the movie, until I heard the most touching rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I felt actual emotions… It may be too little, too late for some. However, I knew I was in for a great finale. The action becomes over-the-top in a way that only Kingsman can provide and doesn’t stop being hilarious. Any fan of Hot Fuzz will appreciate just how far the violence goes.
I walked out of this one a little let down, but still smiling. Expectations aside, this is still a mad-cap, enjoyable (if not a bit bloated) spy romp. I’d like to see the series continue, but would rather see what another director could do with it. Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets a passive b