When nearly all of the Kingsmen secret agents are obliterated, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) join forces with their American counterparts, the Statesmen, as they attempt to thwart the unhinged Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), head of a huge drug cartel who, through her products, has infected thousands of people with a deadly virus. The remaining Kingsmen agents are also reunited with Harry Hart (Colin Firth) who has been brought back to life and attempts to get back in the field, having suffered from a bad case of amnesia.
There are plenty of familiar faces as several characters from the first film make a return appearance; Taron Egerton yet again proves that he’s a fine, charismatic action hero while also delivering the laughs and being a consistently likeable presence, Colin Firth gets to explore a whole new side to his character, more vulnerable as he re-learns who he is and struggles with getting back into the field, and Mark Strong has perhaps a bit more to do as he goes into the field with Eggsy and Harry, delivering a showstopping performance of a certain John Denver song (more on that later!)
The Golden Circle also shakes things up a bit by bringing in some new American characters; Jeff Bridges (sporting a John Waters moustache) is a fine casting choice as Champagne, head of the Statesmen, Halle Berry is very likeable as Ginger Ale, Merlin’s counterpart, and Channing Tatum does well with what he’s given but it’s a shame that he wasn’t in it more, despite receiving prominent billing and appearing quite a lot in the trailers; maybe if there’s another Kingsman film, he’ll finally get the chance to leap into action, something I’m looking forward to. But stealing the spotlight from them all is Pedro Pascal’s revolver-twirling, lasso-wielding, smooth talking Whisky (it’s “supposed to be spelled with an e!”) who nabs all the best action scenes and he gives the film most of its flair and style.
As chief antagonist Poppy Adams, Julianne Moore makes for an interesting type of villain, always smiling and having a certain sinister, mother-like demeanour, but her character is ultimately quite forgettable, her affinity for the 1950s isn’t particularly relevant (although it does set the scene well for an excellent finale) and her “grand plan”/overall goal isn’t particularly imaginative – she’s definitely not as unique or interesting as Richmond Valentine from the first film.
Carrying on the legacy of the first film, The Golden Circle has its fair share of slickly directed action sequences, the best of them being a gripping, adrenaline fuelled, albeit over CGd, opening car chase through the streets and a fun finale set at the baddie’s lair, orchestrated much the same way as the church fight from The Secret Service. It also has another fun, thrilling Henry Jackman score that injects just the right amount of excitement and gives it a distinctive James Bond vibe; the score could very well have been taken from the latest 007 adventure. And this film has more John Denver who, as has been pointed out by a fellow blogger, has already been heard this year in films like Alien: Covenant, Okja and Logan Lucky (am I missing any?) – filmmakers must really be digging his style this year!
On the negative side, The Golden Circle, despite admittedly starting off with that exciting opening sequence, takes a while to really get moving and there are a couple of sections that could’ve been cut, such as a meandering, awkward part set at Glastonbury; parts like these also have a tendency to get a bit too crude (which I guess is to be expected, given the first film) and there are a few too many parts that are just too silly. The film also runs the risk of getting mawkish from time to time, especially during the scenes between Eggsy and Harry and also the romantic subplot with Princess Tilde, who has apparently gone the way of Ted‘s Tammy-Lynn – a minor part in one film and then bumped up to “love interest” in the sequel, leading to many touchy feely scenes that run the risk of incurring eye-rolls from the audience, given the slightly saccharine nature of the relationship. Even though it never really crosses the line into tedium, The Golden Circle isn’t as outrageous or high-energy as its predecessor and the more emotion-heavy scenes slow the film down a bit too much.
And the Elton John parts are just too embarrassing and misjudged; the amount of f-bombs he drops is just ridiculous.
On the whole, The Golden Circle is an entertaining enough film to watch as it’s always great to revisit these colourful characters and to see what new tricks Matthew Vaughn has up his sleeve to wow us with. But on the other hand, the film isn’t as memorable or as fresh as the first one, it doesn’t have that good of a story, and it’s ultimately too easy to walk away from the film, not remembering a great deal about what you’ve just seen. It’s a neat trip to the cinema but it probably won’t be one to watch again any time soon.