Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft, Sophie Cookson, Hanna Alstrom, Poppy Delevingne with Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges
Plot: The Kingsmen suffer a vicious attack from a crazy drug cartel owner (Moore), sending them to Kentucky to ally with their American cousins.
How do you follow a film like Kingsman? It was a roaring success, a love letter to the spy movies of old, bravely flaunting their camp innuendo and mocking their exuberant plots. But with the underdog storyline and the rise to gentleman super-spy plot, it could be argued that the success was an one time thing.
Turns out the trick to recapturing the magic was to immediately tear up the story and restart from the ashes. After a 007-esque, explosive opening credits fight, the Kingsman are swiftly taken care of in a shock missile attack. The surviving members, without a purpose and not knowing who their would-be assassins even are, follow an unprecedented doomsday protocol that takes them to America. There, they are united with the Statesmen, the American cousins of the Kingsmen. Vaughn has fun reinventing traits seen in the first film, but with a US twist. The Statesman make liquor rather than suits, their gadgets are brash American objects and one agent (an always solid Pedro Pascal), uses an Indiana Jones whip and a cowboy lasso as his preferred weapon. By the time, the American angle has been established, Vaughn has done half the job of writing his sequel. All he needs is a crazy world-dominating villain to fill the gaps. Julianne Moore does the job nicely. Samuel L. Jackson has always been a tough act to follow, but thankfully, the spy genre makes cycling through villains feel natural rather than forced. She is just as despicably evil as Valentine, a major drug distributor, jealous of other legal businessmen and their right to boast their successes. Like Valentine, she also has her peculiarities. Valentine had a lisp and an aversion to blood; Moore’s Poppy Adams, is a product of 50s America, her evil lair decorated with vintage 50s furniture. The finale fight takes place in an American diner, ripped straight out of Back to the Future. Perhaps, there are times where The Golden Circle does try too hard, probably wrapped up in the fact this is a sequel. Moore’s arsenal is a cacophony of over-compensation: she has robot hounds, a henchman with a mechanical arm filled with deadly gadgets and goons with golden circles scolded onto their chests. The action is bigger and better, scenes like the Kentucky church replicated with dazzling effect. However, Vaughn’s action lacks the grittiness of spy movies like Bourne, meaning they look spectacular, but are surprisingly hollow. This is a movie that aims for cool, rather than substance. That being said, Vaughn finds time for the little flourishes that defines Kingsman as arguably the best series Vaughn has devised. A major character gets a glorious send-off. Elton John grabs an over-the-top cameo, bordering on supporting role. And Vaughn must have had the biggest grin on his face, with a gag that sticks a finger up (literally) at anyone who scoffed at his anal joke in the last movie.
Then there are the surprisingly touching moments. Colin Firth’s return to the cast is the biggest draw of the film and thankfully, the explanation is only as daft as the universe of Kingsmen has already been. Returning him to the fold does give the film some genuine moments of sincerity. There is also a political message buried underneath all of the silly spy jokes about thinking before judging drug-users as one negative stereotype. Pinch yourself: Matthew Vaughn might have just got serious for a moment.
Final Verdict: Definitely a sequel, but a bloody fun one at that. Stealing the fun of the first and upping the action. Less subtle, but charming all the same.