20th CENTURY FOX (2017)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Elton John

Manners maketh man.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service served up a mix of good and bad manners and its sequel, The Golden Circle, is no different.

 

Set one year after the events of the previous movie, Eggsy (Egerton), now operating under the moniker Galahad – taking up the mantle from his former mentor Harry (Firth) – is a fully-fledged Kingsman operative living with his Swedish princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). Presumably, she received her anal sex as Eggsy’s reward for saving the world.

After being ambushed by Kingsman reject Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), Eggsy escapes from an explosive car-chase through the streets of London and Hyde Park before heading to Sweden to meet Tilde’s royal parents. Unbeknownst to him, a cybernetic enhancement belonging to Charlie (discarded in Eggsy’s cab) has hacked into the Kingsman data vaults, revealing the locations of all operatives. Unhinged 50s enthusiast, leader of mysterious group ‘The Golden Circle’ and evil villain Poppy (played with exuberant relish by Moore) obtains said data and promptly blows every Kingsman operative from the face of the earth.

 

Finding the answer to their predicament literally at the bottom of a bottle, the surviving Kingsmen, Eggsy and Merlin (Strong), are forced Stateside to join forces with their US counterparts and bourbon manufacturers, the Statesman - led by Champagne (Bridges), Tequila (Tatum), Ginger (Berry) and Whiskey (Pascal), to solve the mystery of their assailant.  The initial friction between the factions is quickly dispensed with as Poppy reveals her master plan – she has distributed deadly virus-laden drugs to the world en masse, and only she has the antidote. Having to work together, the organisations begin their mission to take down the Golden Circle, with help from an old friend. Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

 

Matthew Vaughn serves up another slice of spy-send up fun as the sharp-dressed tailor spies return for more OTT action. Sequels are tough enough to crack, however, the unexpected success of The Secret Service placed even greater expectations on The Golden Circle, and whilst it doesn’t hit the heights of its predecessor, there’s still plenty of fun to be found here. There’s a greater balance between comedy and drama this time around and some of the madcap energy is left behind in favour of melodrama. The soundtrack, however, is just as ace as before and includes John Denver’s sixth cinematic run-out of 2017 (following Alien: Covenant, Logan Lucky, Free Fire, Okja and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul). The year of the Denver rolls on.

 

Vaughn’s signature action style is in full-swing in The Golden Circle – quick close-ups followed by slow-mo all captured seemingly in one long flowing shot, the fight scenes are just as impressive and exciting to watch once more. Whilst there are no scenes that match the infamous ‘Church scene’ of The Secret Service, the opening car chase salvo and later Cambodian massacre are big, brash and impressive as anything. Bullets flying, blood splattering, bodies falling and all with a theatrical beauty. Pedro Pascal has the majority of key fight scenes (utilizing an electric lasso) but something about his battle scenes lacked the intensity brought by Firth previously.

 

The cast are all solid in varying measures. Egerton is just as engaging as he was before and Mark Strong stands out as the wise Merlin. The Statesman all play ball and join in with the comic book fun, Jeff Bridges drawling his lines with Southern swagger as the factions Head, though Tatum in underutilized sadly. Halle Berry as Ginger is also sparingly used and isn’t quite the equivalent of Merlin. Colin Firth is always dependable, though I believe his role was forced into The Golden Circle – arse-kicking and charismatic in The Secret Service, slow, ponderous and devoid of real action here, the character and actor were undersold, though he gets his share of the action too.

 

There’s also an f-bomb laden extended cameo for Elton John too, because...why not!

 

Clocking in at ten minutes longer than its predecessor, the movie had extra time to cover less necessary expositional ground, which inevitably led to pacing issues. The original dealt with the rise of Eggsy, his relationship with Harry and the threat posed by Richard Valentine.  Here, we are introduced to the Statesman (who only have about 10-15 minutes of screentime), Poppy and the Golden Circle, a subplot with the US President and corrupt politicians, globe-trotting, Tilde’s family and a trip to Glastonbury (including a scene likely to offend as much as the anal sex gag did before) and that’s amongst others. It’s fair to say some fresh editing would tighten up the narrative.

 

Fans of the original need not worry about the array of techy gadgets this time around. There are killer robo-dogs, enhanced cybernetic arms, briefcase machine guns, the standard magic watches and electric lassos wrestling for attention with Harry’s umbrella, bulletproof cabs and many, many more dream contraptions. It’s Bond x 50.

 

The Golden Circle delivers laughs, drama and as much action as you could want. Though the Statesman are disappointingly underutilized, it’s good to see the returning cast back in action and still kicking it. It may not have the pizzazz and verve of The Secret Service, but The Golden Circle is an enjoyable romp nonetheless.

September 30th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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