I love the first KINGSMAN movie and was really excited for this sequel. It was funny, action-oriented, and stylish while still surprisingly crass. So that’s the measure of how I’ll review the second installment, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE.
The movie keeps its style. Eggsy, Merlin, Harry, and the full of the Kingsman watch are still sharp, dapper, and tech-savvy badasses that are equally at home in a palace as a pub. Exactly how you want them to be. Added to the mix this time is the Statesman organization, a collection of American super-agents with southern drawls, six-shooters, and whose denim is only interrupted by leather jackets. Wait – is that how we’re wanted to be? As someone from the States (or a Yank, whatever you want to say), I almost wanted to be annoyed with such a ridiculous caricature, but honestly, is the stoic, overly-groomed gentlemen any less of a British stereotype than the no-frills, leap-as-you-look cowboy is for Americans? Actually, I liked that neither stereotype was played as a joke, simply a different (slightly cartoonish) style.
If there was any downside, I suppose it would be the naming conventions. The Kingsman members all have names of associated with the legend of King Arthur. Galahad, Lancelot, Merlin. That’s cool. Meanwhile, the Statesman members are all named for alcohol. Good news for Whiskey and Tequila, but not so much for Ginger Ale and Champagne. Granted, Ginger Ale is the charismatic Halle Berry and Champagne is played by the awesome Jeff Bridges who drawls out a “call me Champ,” but…really?
And let’s talk about Tequila! Unlike your last Saturday at the club, this time it wasn’t a bad decision. Channing Tatum is the bad-boy Statesman agent who quickly…is taken out of the movie and literally put on ice. It’s great. Seeing the trailers for this film made it look like he was some major powerhouse force, but he’s basically benched after his introductory fight scene. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of Channing Tatum’s stuff, but it was a hilarious bit of marketing to bait-and-switch him to the sidelines of the story. So why do it at all? Well, I’m hoping it’s not the case, but this entire movie may have been a setup for him doing a lion’s share in the inevitable 3rd film. I like Taron Egerton (Eggsy) and Colin Firth (Harry) and Mark Strong (Merlin). Let the core players continue to keep the center stage.
The star power in the rest of the movie is great. Julianne Moore as the villain Poppy is as wildly over the top as Samuel L. Jackson was in the first film. She plays a drug lord who is obsessed with the shiny aspects of 50s pop culture and a love for Elton John music. In fact, SIR Elton John plays a part in the story. A fairly big part. And it’s not often you can genuinely say “Elton John really stole that scene.”
He even had a fight sequence. No joke. An Elton John Fight scene.
And, yes, there’s plenty of action. It’s all smooth, stylish, and super cool. The only thing missing? A scene with the shock and savagery of the infamous church violence from the first film. What we do get, however, is inventive weaponry, expert skills, and humor. Yes, fights can be funny, and that’s part of what the original appeal was from the first KINGSMAN movie (at least for me).
So how does it stack up, overall? It’s a good, fun film. It does not, however, capture the full magic of the first one. And that’s fine and a little to be expected. In the same way the first JOHN WICK was so popular and the second film not quite the same, the same holds true for the KINGSMAN franchise. It has all the signature style you want, but nothing to fully replace what can no longer be replicated – the fact that it’s no longer “new.” The sticking point for 99.99% of sequels.
TL;DR – Go see it. Have fun and enjoy because it’s earned it and is fully worth the admission.
4 of 5 stars.