Two years ago, director Matthew Vaughn introduced us to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” — a refreshing departure from more serious films in the espionage genre. However, its sequel follows the original’s formula too closely for it to shine on its own. While it doesn’t live up to its predecessor, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is still a sequel that is too fun to miss.
Like the first film, the world is in danger once again: this time at the hands of Poppy Adams, the leader of the world’s largest underground drug cartel, who is played by Julianne Moore. After virtually all members and resources of the Kingsman are eliminated, Eggsy/Galahad, played by Taron Egerton, and Merlin, played by Mark Strong, must team up with their organization’s American counterpart, “Statesman,” to stop her. To complicate things, Eggsy must balance his professional and personal life along with the revelation that his former mentor, Harry Hart, or Colin Firth, is still alive.
What was clear was the amount of fun the cast seemed to have from start to finish. Balls-to-the-wall action sequences were creatively choreographed and never failed to impress. The beginning car chase alone was enough to sell the film. The dynamic between English and American agents was a refreshing addition, contrasting the brashness of Statesman with the elegance of Kingsman. Cheeky cross-culture references almost always got a laugh, including a humorous homage to the wildly popular John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and an amazing cameo performance by Sir Elton John.
Although “The Golden Circle” is a fun film, its biggest flaw is oversaturation. There is never a dull moment, with over-the-top special effects and increasingly wacky sequences starting the film at 100 mph and ending at 1,000 mph. But frequent fight scenes rely too heavily on successful formulas from the original film to stand out on their own. Multiple fights were soundtracked to rock songs, each attempting to be this movie’s “Free Bird church scene.” It breaks an essential design principle: If everything is special, then nothing is special.
Channing Tatum fans will be disappointed to hear that he is absent for most the film. Aside from Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal, “Narcos” and “Game of Thrones”), the Statesman agents get considerably less screen time than I would’ve liked. It’s hard not to compare this film to one released earlier this year, “John Wick: Chapter 2,” which successfully expanded the lore of its established universe — an aspect where “The Golden Circle” missed the mark.
Despite its flaws, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is overall worth watching. If you enjoyed the first film, it’s everything you’d expect: a satirical and outrageous spy flick with a plot simple enough for you to turn off your brain for a couple of hours and enjoy the spectacle.