Kingsman: The Golden Circle (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2017) – After their headquarters come under attack, the Kingsman sets out to stop the perpetrator, who has also sparked a global, drug-induced epidemic.
Doubling down on the havoc, Kingsman ups the ante on fun but needs to do better than waste its band of characters.
Perfect tailored suits, a bare essential of the Hollywood spy repertoire. From every iconic incarnation of Bond to the sharp-dressed men of U.N.C.L.E., no world-defending agent has ever left for a mission without being dressed to the nines. And so there seems no better front than a bespoke tailor shop for Britain’s top-secret service Kingsman, back again for more overblown shoot-outs.
Shame to see their neat headquarters go at the very start. Destruction rains upon good folks, who deserved much more than the hasty farewell they got. But no time for grieving, as Merlin (Mark Strong) puts it. Along with Eggsy (Taron Egerton), now up to snuff and wearing the mantle of Galahad, they fly off to Kentucky on a hunt after the culprit.
They would need all the help they can get. Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) replicates the worst habits of Hannibal Lecter and Pablo Escobar, hatching a bloodthirsty kingpin’s dream without batting an eyelid. Her worst crime is also the most fun, as she holds Elton John (in an extended cameo as himself) under duress.
Her scheme follows the showy nature of Richmond Valentine in The Secret Service, elaborate in ploy and mad in execution. Cheers then to the Kingsman’s American counterpart for stepping in. The Statesman brings to the game their slick shotguns and gadgets, inspired by idiosyncrasies of the Old West.
Electrified lassos make for particularly spectacular scenes, courtesy of the cowboy-esque Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Often left to his own devices when surrounded by enemies, the promising character earns easy adoration for his stout-hearted heroics and mordant humour.
That is until an unnecessary attempt at a shake-up turns out a letdown. A ridiculous twist blots out every bit of what could have been with the most interesting character of the lot.
The rest of the crew never gets developed beyond the archetypes of Boss, Punk, and Female Tech. Given the strong cast behind the American agents, it is odd that Champ (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Ginger (Halle Berry) were not given much to work with.
Any development for the Statesman is kept to a sad minimum, as the teased return of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) takes precedence. Was it all worth it? No seems the answer. The gutsy move to kill off Hart has lost all impact when it turns out any character could have survived a point-blank bullet (or any exploding head, for that matter).
The return of Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) also comes off cheaply written, retreading the same grounds as a damsel in distress. At this point, an intent for shock or satire feels like a mere excuse to escape criticism. This comes off especially clear in a misogynistic gag that makes light of sexual assault, coming off no more than tasteless.
While admirable for their rare attempt at originality, writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman are close to crossing a line. The enjoyable franchise once had plenty of heart in its young hero’s coming-of-age, but has since devolved into an uninspired test of movie boundaries.
Given the talented cast and crew, not forgetting a growing fan base, this could be so much more than a silly cartoon. It would be entirely regrettable to see such an entertaining series end up in stalemate, simply because the writers are choosing the easy way out.