Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

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Matt Donato

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Rating:
3
On September 18, 2017
Last modified:September 18, 2017

Summary:

Vaughn sticks to what he knows with his Kingsman sequel but rarely ups the ante, making this a fun-enough entry into an already-too-familiar franchise.

In terms of mouthy James Bond stand-ins, Taron Egerton‘s “Eggsy” alter ego has earned his blockbuster appeal. A cocky-but-cool espionage wunderkind who won our hearts by skewering Samuel L. Jackson in Kingsman: The Secret Service and charms once again in Matthew Vaughn’s drug-agenda sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Same Eggsy, same megalomaniac evildoer holding the world hostage, same frantic-yet-smooth action – no, like, it’s the same film to an eerie extent. This is why, as a vocal fan of The Secret Service, The Golden Circle feels a bit rehashed in execution. It’s still one hell of an action film, only we have a constant comparison point that’s always greater than the sum of Vaughn’s raucously violent follow-up. Even with the slew of good-natured jabs at honky-tonkin’ American culture.

Since the events of Eggsy’s (Taron Egerton) rookie mission, life has progressed as it should have. He’s become the “Galahad” Harry Hart (Colin Firth) would have praised, and the boyfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) dreamed of. Then tragedy strikes – the Kingsman are wiped out by rogue missiles that leave no survivors except Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong). With no options left, the two English agents activate a procedural doomsday plan in the form of a whisky bottle. “Statesman” it reads, which, long story short, leads to America’s branch of secret security under the control of “Champ” (Jeff Bridges). Eggsy works with his new pals to uncover a drug dealer’s plot to hold the world ransom with tainted narcotics (Poppy, played by Julianne Moore), using Statesman resources to take down the savvy businesswoman with the help of friends new and old.

By introducing The Statesman – a red, white, and blue answer to Eggsy’s debonair special forces – Vaughn is able to play the same introductory beats from a new perspective. Instead of a tailor shop, the Statesman operative underneath a massive whisky distillery in Kentucky. The secret door? A massive wooden cask. Their attire? “Booted up” instead of “suited up.” Weapons? Baseball bats and lassos. Statesman ranks are literal gunslingers in response to the more reserved Kingsman, and by golly are they a fun group to be around. Any reason to squeeze Channing Tatum into a Canadian tuxedo has my vote. You can keep the Kingsman – I’ll be slingin’ up shots of firewater and sniffin’ cigars with these good-old secret agents.

It’s just unfortunate that everything feels so familiar; lazy, some people may remark. Every action sequence aims to be the next “Freebird Church Brawl,” but never lives up to hype. Vaughn’s lens tracks tumbling characters as they’re thrown over diner counters or into meat grinders, replicating the same kinetic choreography that we once fell in love with – but never upping the game. Characters, motivations, all of it.

Poppy – played with apple-pie-sweetness by Moore – is just a rehash of Jackson’s Valentine, down to the mechanically-modded sidekick. Her scheme can be thwarted by pushing a single, problem-solving button. Colin Firth, meanwhile, waltzes back on screen like death is no longer a constraint of life. Maybe this is meant to accentuate the differences between Statesman and Kingsman practices, but, the fact is that we’re only one sequel in, and Vaughn already seems out of ideas. We know this isn’t truth, but reality leaves little more to ponder.

Aesthetically, The Golden Circle relies heavily on green screens. Every backdrop or wide-scaling shot. Poppy’s Pleasantview hideaway enjoys nostalgic 1950s detailing from bowling alleys to sock-hopping restaurant fronts, yet so many scenic transitions give us a bird’s eye view that’s glossy, distracting and not indicative of the first film’s withstanding qualities. One might argue the animated landscapes align with Vaughn’s commitment to cartoonishness, but if so, the lack of natural setting and green screen abuse are to a fault. If this is because the film’s costume budget demanded cuts elsewhere then fine, I’ll let it pass – it’s all worth Edgerton’s orange-and-black stunner – just don’t expect a necessarily “grounded” take. Colors are unbalanced and actors very clearly exist on a different plane than their apparent location. In fact, some shots feel more like a SimCity animation than establishing segue.

That said, all things taken into consideration, The Golden Circle is carried dutifully by too many spy-types who are having an absolute blast. From Pedro Pascal’s horndog rancher “Whiskey” to Moore’s meaty hamburger recipe secrets. Tatum’s dance-happy disease to Elton John’s gloriously “WTF” cameo that may be this year’s “Bill Murry in Zombieland.” You’re here for Edgerton who’s as dashing, vulnerable and quick-to-the-draw as ever, filling the void while a new Bond is discussed – but don’t count out the importance of support characters. Mark Strong and his touching John Denver rendition. Bruce Greenwood as a very “Nixon” US president. Bridges’ spittoon-ringing, R.I.P.D-turned-down-a-notch Southerner. Even Halle Berry brings something lovable to her underutilized techie Statesman, Ginger. It’s no doubt that Edgerton is able to get by with a little help from his friends (and enemies).

The disappointment factor here is simply because Kingsman: The Secret Service is that good; shades of “passable” overshadowed by what already was. Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t a *bad* movie, even if it’s not winning any awards for political subtlety (save lives, legalize drugs!) or less in-your-face objectification (prepare to wince once again if The Secret Service ended on a sour note for you). Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman know what works – fitted stitching, furious fight sequences and plenty of Taron Egerton. Double-down on the classics and please fans, right? It’s a dangerous mentality that makes this inevitable sequel just good enough for some Friday-night fun, yet little more.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review
Fair

Vaughn sticks to what he knows with his Kingsman sequel but rarely ups the ante, making this a fun-enough entry into an already-too-familiar franchise.

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