TL;DR
  • Almost as excellent as the first film
  • Fun, suave, sexy style peppers the whole film – Bond elements make for one hell of a  ride
  • Humour is hilarious and stereotypes are even funnier
  • Cast is diverse and excellent – clearly having fun with the film
  • Lack of strong female characters and strong villain
  • A bit too long with an over-stuffed plot and some pacing issues
  • Superb action scenes – fun, well-choreographed fights
  • Gadgets make the action even better
  • Finally proof that Matthew Vaughn can make good sequels

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It’s a strange era for movies where a film that makes fun of Bond aspects becomes more Bondian than actual James Bond films. Still this is what Kingsman films do best; take elements that made the Bond films so memorable and iconic in the first place and twist them on their head, mocking them, paying tribute to them and making them their own. Kingsman: The Golden Circle follows on from its exceptional original to give us a sequel which goes further than its predecessor, giving us more of what we loved first time round and taking it to new levels. Whilst it may fall prey to the ‘sequel-curse’ (trying a little too hard to replicate perfection) and although its madness may not be to everyone’s tastes, I still think it’s an excellent film which can’t fail to entertain and exceed at what it does.

Starting off with a Bond-style action-packed opening scene complete with car chase, fights and an underwater taxi, the tone for the film is immediately set and we’re captivated…even with the utterly mad plot. After the Kingsman have been hacked and attacked, it’s up to Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) to seek out their American counterparts, the Statesmen (using the cover of a bourbon distillery as opposed to the Kingsman’s tailors), and eliminate the threat. However, the threat is more than just disgruntled former Kingsman trainee Charlie (Edward Holcroft) looking for vengeance; CEO villain Poppy (Julianne Moore), hiding out in her replica 50s American diner complete with robot dogs (just go with it), has a plan to reap the fame she so craves. Teaming up with Champ (Jeff Bridges), Ginger (Halle Berry), Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), and rekindling with old agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) – whose way of escaping death no one guessed on the Internet, so credit to the writers – the Kingsman agents go on a globe-trotting adventure round the world to foil the plans of Poppy and her Golden Circle and, once again, save the world, with the whole thing getting more and more personal as the film goes on.

From the plot alone it’s obvious that this film, like its predecessor, takes most of its main cues from Bond films; with its action-packed opening, physics-defying technology, joyful fight scenes and suave style, it’s just one film away from a music title sequence featuring Adele. As a Bond fan, I have no problem with this. In fact it’s wonderful to see a fresh take on these aspects that have kept Bond going for over half a century. Director Matthew Vaughn takes these aspects he loves and totally makes them his own. Of course the foundation of all this is the big, bold, over-the-top plot which is always as good as the villain’s plan… Once again Kingsman goes big with, as Eggsy says, “another save the world situation.” Although Poppy’s evil scheme isn’t quite as interesting as Valentine’s from the first film, it’s similar but different enough with big stakes.

And of course, as with nearly every sequel, this one gets more personal with the deaths of some excellent characters. In fact it gets more personal several times throughout the film, this being one of the film’s flaws. A strength from the first one was the apparent “death” of Harry Hart. This is not only a bold move on the part of the filmmaker, showing confidence that the film can carry on well without a favourite character, but has a large emotional impact on the film. Think of Rachel in The Dark Knight or Agent Coulson in Avengers Assemble; these bold deaths of characters we love strengthen the story when done well and make us feel more invested. The problem with Kingsman: The Golden Circle is that they try to replicate the impact of Harry’s death with other characters more than a few times – to the point of almost desensitising us to losing them. To a certain extent, the more this happens the less we care and the less we’re invested in the story. The one exception to this however comes towards the end (no spoilers), where there’s a very moving farewell to a much loved character.

Still it’s not all doom and gloom because there’s a very kinetic, busy plot with lots going on – perhaps too much. Keeping an enjoyable staple with most spy films, we go on a globe-trotting adventure – from London, Kentucky and Cambodia, to Italy and… Glastonbury. This movement keeps the film fresh and exciting, giving us a variety of backdrops to the action with beautiful scenery. This is fortunate since otherwise the story can feel a little stale every now and then. With so much going on and a long runtime of 2 hours 20 minutes, it does take a while for it to really find its feet and get going with the main ‘mission’ of the film. Midway through, part of you wants it to just hurry up and pick up the pace, getting back to what’s important – it does soon enough though and there are twists and turns to keep the plot fun to watch (even though some of the twists are expected and predictable).

The globe-trotting aspect though, like any film such as this, is one of the most enjoyable elements. Beautiful locations made more gorgeous through elegant filming – this is just the basics for a director like Matthew Vaughn who seems to have developed some sort of individual aesthetic and style over his six films; with slick action, excellent choice of music and superb transitions that make the Star Wars wipes look like a joke he’s becoming something of an “auteur”. A director who can bring so much style from the camera compliments this film brilliantly as this is a movie where aesthetics matter more than plot. More style than some Bond films, we have snazzy suits, smart cars, gadgets galore, stunning locations and beautiful women. All this makes the film an aesthetic joy, but it’s the sheer lunacy of the film which will make or break it for some people. Personally I love it. 

The madness is really found in the action and, fortunately for me, it goes above and beyond the first film. Slick, fast-paced, gloriously violent, expertly-choreographed and, most importantly, lots of fun to watch – these are action scenes at their finest. Of course, if you’re looking for realistic, gritty fights, this is not the film for you. However if you want crazy, comic-book style action complimented by wonderful song choices that add a strong element of fun, then this will be right up your street. From Hit-Girl’s entrance in Kick-Ass to the church scene in the first Kingsman, wild action scenes are this Vaughn’s forte and they’re showcased tremendously here. And there are plenty to enjoy; from the frantic opening scene to the grand finale and countless in between. A smile was plastered on my face throughout, thoroughly enjoying the elegant, yet violent dances of death; I loved being wowed by the various stunts and laughing at the obscene, unrealistic violence. Perhaps there’s a bit too much, but when it’s this much fun it’s hard to care. You can tell at times they’re trying to go for a repeat of the church scene from the first film. Sadly there’s no scene that quite lives up to that marvel – but there are certainly some that come close.

And what makes all this better? The humour, of which there’s plenty. It makes the whole roller-coaster ride of the film that much more fun and really adds to its personality. You’ll find yourself chuckling along to the jokes, the ridiculous action and the hilarious stereotypes, making fun of us Brits as much as the Americans. If Americans ever wonder what we think of them as well as ourselves, they’ll find the answer here. Only they’re not offensive stereotypes; instead they add to the humour, style and fun.

With the expansion to America to include the Statesmen comes the chance to have a new load of characters – and they’re played by some excellent actors. Two Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry accompany Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal along with Hollywood heartthrob Channing Tatum. All distinct and well-developed characters, we almost care as much for them as we do the British group, where Mark Strong, Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are all back and on fine form. Sadly Sophie Cookson and Michael Gambon appear only too briefly, but there’s an impressive cast with a roster of characters to love – especially Elton John in the strangest cameo I’ve seen for some time. Julianne Moore’s Poppy is the only slightly wobbly character. An excellent portrayal on her part, but it feels as though her talents were a bit wasted on an under-developed villain. Not as memorable or intriguing as Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine from the first film, Moore’s performance is fun and charismatic, but she isn’t really given a chance to shine before her character is overcome. In fact this can even stretch to Halle Berry’s Ginger; these are the only two main female characters, along with returning Hanna Alstrӧm as Princess Tilde and Poppy Delevingne as Clara – both playing girlfriends of main male characters… It feels that after building up Roxy as a competent agent in the last film, it’s such a shame she wasn’t used more to balance the genders. Still, despite a male-heavy cast, they’re all a blast to watch.

Like its predecessor, this is absolutely my kind of film and I love it. Yes, there may be some issues with the runtime and pacing, the lack of female characters, and the plot occasionally sidetracking, but these are minor issues. As far as I’m concerned, this is an absolute blast to watch – the slick, balls-to-the-wall fun, stylistic action scenes are the crème de la crème and only the tip of the iceberg, since everything in between is fun, hilarious and, at times, even movingKingsman: The Golden Circle gives you all the thrills, laughs, style and violence you could ever want. Move over Double 0s, the Kingsmen are in town.

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