Published Sep 22, 2017Matthew Vaughn is a director with a simple (and successful) formula for his films: heads exploding plus women disrobing divided by guns reloading times white men all-knowing. Seriously, his movies are as diverse as the lineup at a New England Gap outlet. And the violence! Sweet bejesus, he's the Jackson Pollock of blood splatters. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a perfect storm of sex and violence, and I resent how entertained I was by the spectacle of it all.
Golden Circle follows 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service, in which a brilliant thug from the wrong side of the council estate named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is transformed into James Bond Jr. by Harry (Colin Firth), an emissary from a vigilante organization in London called The Kingsman. They're characterized by their bespoke suits and the gentlemanly comportment they display while massacring hundreds of people for ambiguous reasons.
The sequel is more of the same, but with an extra-frenzied, crowded feel. This time there are more characters, fights and subplots crammed in, making the film's editors the real heavyweights of the finished product. Not only are 95 percent of Kingsman agents blown sky high right before a drug lord (Julianne Moore) uses her poisoned wares to hold the world hostage, but Eggsy also must dazzle the parents of his Swedish princess girlfriend (Hanna Alström, damsel in distress once more); take down a wannabe-Kingsman-turned-henchman; cure his mentor's amnesia; and make contact with The Statesman, an American equivalent to The Kingsman. Oh yes, and the U.S President is secretly planning genocide on casual drug users. No wonder this thing clocks in at an ungodly 141 minutes.
With bored, awkward performances by Statesman agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Champagne (Jeff Bridges), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), the promising-sounding collaboration of Kingsman and Statesman adds little to the film. Pedro Pascal (Narcos) is a charismatic standout as Agent Whiskey — perhaps because the actor still has something to prove. Tatum often resembles a high school jock self-consciously starring in a local production of Oklahoma!, and poor Berry just worriedly stares at computer screens. Why bother crossing the pond for this?
And yet, The Golden Circle is strangely gripping and often hilarious. Julianne Moore riffs on her past roles as an unhinged '50s housewife by embodying her character Poppy Adams as a polite, psychotically cheerful gal who just wants validation for her hard work in heroin production. Her hideout in the Cambodian mountains is a tribute to post-war Americana, complete with a diner outfitted with a meat mincer used to churn underperforming employees into beautifully-plated burgers. There's also a marquee theatre where a kidnapped and pissed-off Elton John puts on nightly shows in increasingly comedic outfits. You haven't properly experienced pure cinematic joy until you've witnessed Sir Elton fighting off robotic killer dogs whilst wearing a parrot costume.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a hell of a ride, one dominated by sudden twists, disorientation, and invigorating speed. Show up prepared to switch off your brain and toss aside your moral compass for a few hours. Just remember to pick them back up on your way out.