When we last left Eggsy (Taron Egerton), he had completed his transformation into a Kingsman; going from aimless slacker to dashing British secret agent. He had saved the world, avenged his murdered mentor Harry (Colin Firth), and even gotten a girl, granted not his likeable fellow agent Roxy (Sophie Cookson) but the Swedish princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). He’s still dating Tilde in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” which is funny in and of itself considering the controversial hookup from the first film did not seem like it would lend itself to long-term happiness. This franchise is all too happy to admit that it’s a James Bond ripoff, but the hero believing in lasting relationships is a major and welcome difference.
Eggsy and senior Kingsman Merlin (Mark Strong) soon find themselves having to team up with liquor-themed U.S. equivalent agency Statesman to take down the sweetest, perkiest, most ruthless drug lord in all of Cambodia. Her name is Poppy (Julianne Moore) and she’s going to get a lot of comparisons to Martha Stewart, but I can’t help but see her more as my boss, candy magnate Dylan Lauren. Like many supervillains, Poppy kills a hapless henchman in an early scene, and it’s maybe the sickest version of this type of scene ever done. So why would anyone want to work for her? For once we get an answer. In addition to what I’m sure is good money, there’s another perk in the form of Sir Elton John. He’s at Poppy’s disposal to perform private concerts for her and her men. She scooped him up in the midst of the mass celebrity kidnapping from the first movie. This means that original villain Valentine wanted Iggy Azalea but not Sir Elton, good riddance to him.
Eggsy and Merlin mingle with the Statesmen, including leader Champaign (Jeff Bridges), analyst Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), cocky agent Tequila (Channing Tatum), sharper agent Whisky (Pedro Pascal, unfairly overlooked in a lot of the film’s advertising), and Harry. Yes, Eggsy’s supposedly-dead mentor. The Statesmen have been keeping an amnesia-afflicted Harry at their facility, as they’ve discovered a cure for getting shot in the head. The bad news is that we have to go through a frustrating recovering-from-amnesia storyline, the good news is that we have Colin Firth back. On a side note, I think this movie has a few too many characters get blown up, could Statesman maybe find a cure for that for the next movie?
So much about this movie is fun: the action, the banter, Elton John in fight with robot dogs. But there a few rough edges that prevent the movie from being as enjoyable as it could be. The first is that Eggsy, like Bond, has a tendency to get minor characters killed and not care about them. I know he can’t go to pieces over everyone who dies on his mission, but there’s an instance where he signs someone’s death warrant just to fleetingly satisfy his own ego. I found it hard to root for him after that. There’s also an issue with Poppy’s master plan to poison the world’s illegal drug consumers. Never mind that these people are her customer base and she’s out of business if they die, but the movie gets weirdly serious as characters consider the ramifications of both action and inaction. We do get a delicious evil-President performance from Bruce Greenwood out of it, but it’s the wrong tone for a movie that features hot dog vendors with bazookas.
Overall though, I had a blast at “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” The action is delightfully over-the-top and I laughed at just about everything the movie threw at me. I’m sorry to see that so many critics dislike this movie, and I’ll admit that it’s not quite as heartfelt as the first one, but I feel the need to go against the apparent consensus here. I say “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” makes for a royally good time.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout, and some sexual material. Its running time is 141 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.