A Review by KMc & The Sloose
Producer Matthew Vaughn burst on the movie scene as a director back in 2004 with the hit indie film Layer Cake. Since then, he has been a known hit-maker, directing films including Kick Ass and X-Men First Class. He is also known as a director that doesn’t do sequels; he left Days of Future Past to write and direct the original Kingsman: The Secret Service. So our interest was piqued when we heard he was returning for its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Vaughn doesn’t disappoint. Much like the original, The Golden Circle is a fun and funny, irreverent look at the life of a super spy. It starts fast and furious and rarely slows down as we work our way through an enjoyable, if slightly looser than the original, plot. All the major players are back: Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, the upstart “un-cultured” street tough turned spy; his “Q”, Merlin, played amazingly well by Mark Strong; his platonic spy classmate, Roxy, Sophie Cookson; his now girlfriend, Princess Tilde, played by Hanna Alström, and of course, his loyal dog, J.B. Even Harry Hart, Eggsy’s mentor and former Agent Galahad (Colin Firth), seems to have thwarted death to return.
Joining them are a whole slew of new spies from the American iteration of the spy collective, the Statesmen, played by superstars Channing Tatum, Jeff Daniels, Pedro Pascal, and Halle Berry. The new big bad is Julianne Moore as the evil Poppy, ready to kill a large portion of the world to gain the fame she feels she deserves. Throw in an amazing celebrity cameo, some 50’s kitsch, mix it all up with some intense violence and you get an incredibly fun and serviceable sequel.
Sloose: First, my hat’s off to Mark Strong. He was an important part of the first film and a DYNAMO in this one. He was equal parts tough spy and feeling older brother/uncle type. Very similar to the Galahad character in the first film. I also liked how when Harry came back he didn’t try to take that older brother approach away from Merlin and instead jumps right back into super spy, treating Eggsy like an equal. Brilliantly done in my opinion.
KMc: I was also impressed by the new depth brought by Colin Firth to Harry. In The Golden Circle, he gives a different kind of understated performance as the sweet and confused lepidopterist he could have been, then as the shaken man recovering his memories and physical faculties. I was completely reminded this man is an Oscar winner.
Sloose: Yes! I enjoy that they allow the characters to grow in depth despite the cookie cutter remake the plot ultimately is (but more on that later).
KMc: I loved that the American front for the Statesmen was a distillery! It opened up the possibilities for lots of clever jokes about the USA without going overly kitschy. And how do you up the ante on spies with posh accents? Cowboys, obviously.
My biggest complaints were about the female characters. We both wanted to see more of Roxy, who worked so hard to become a spy in the first film, then immediately got killed off. Hopefully that will work as well as Colin Firth getting killed off in the first one. The Princess has a stable, more modern relationship with Eggsy, but is still ultimately a damsel in distress. Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale is finally promoted to full field agent at the end, but we can only hope she will get more of a chance to show her stuff than Roxy did.
Sloose: I think my biggest dislike was the bait and switch on the Channing Tatum character. They set him up really well to be the American version of Eggsy. We get a great intro fight, then they dope him up and put him on ice while Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) deals with the real spy work. I enjoyed the Whiskey character well enough…
KMc: I was very happy to see the Game of Thrones actor back onscreen!
Sloose: …but we all wanted to see Eggsy, Harry, and Channing Tatum fight villains. It also annoyed me because it seems they felt that Pedro couldn’t carry the movie on his own, which isn’t true AT ALL. HE did a fine job with what they gave him.
KMc: I have to mention a pet peeve. Julianne Moore as Poppy gleefully acts up a storm in her 50’s South American theme park to herself, all things diner, bowling, and tropical. But with all the crisp technical aspects of this film, her hair is completely modern and wrong. She wears a bobbysoxer pony tail in one short scene, but otherwise looks incomplete, Julianne Moore’s head on Poppy’s body. Whoever’s choice it was, it took me out of the film. Costumes, to coin a phrase, maketh the character.
Sloose: Huh, I didn’t notice that, but admire your passion!
Sloose: Next time around (if they do a third, which honestly I hope they do) I hope we get an actual different story, as opposed to a paint by numbers retelling of the first movie, with a few minor details mixed around: the villain is selfish and not altruistic, they enter the code in the villain’s doomsday machine, not keep him from entering it in…
KMc: Eggsy isn’t stoic enough and still too emotionally invested, the villain kidnaps a celebrity (though, I will say this was a particularly fabulous celebrity cameo that made us both laugh aloud), betrayal from the inside, all the Kingsmen are destroyed…
Sloose: I would love, love, LOVE to see a story that doesn’t destroy the ENTIRE AGENCY! Maybe a story that allows the current characters, Channing Tatum included, to just work as a spy agency. See them actually utilize their spy network of safe houses, contacts, etc.
KMc: Well, I think they’re working fine as a spy agency, but do wish they would take destroying and rebuilding the Kingsman Agency out of the next movie.
Sloose: Fair enough.
KMc: The soundtrack is spot on, the art direction vibrant, the fight scenes edgy, jarring, and delightfully choreographed. The color scheme pops off the screen like the comic on which it’s based, more subtle in the U.K. with cooler tones, more brassy in the USA with yellows and reds. Technically, the film is bright and clever, edited to give the feeling of a screamer roller coaster ride.
So while Kingsman: The Golden Circle may not push boundaries, the formula works again. It is just as action-packed, violent, funny, and delightful as the first film, keeping the spirit of the original while expanding the world by degrees. We hope Matthew Vaughn loses his reputation for refusing and keeps directing these sequels.
3 1/2 exploding bowlers out of 5