Kingsman: The Golden Circle Supplies The Charm But Lacks The Focus

Kingsman: The Secret Service proved to be one of 2014’s surprise commercial and critical hits—its combination of humour, action, and interesting storytelling made for a spy movie that stood out among the Bonds and Bournes of the world.

And Kingsman: The Golden Circle manages to do the same, embracing its penchant for over-the-top violence, pop culture references, and quirky characters to provide moviegoers with a refreshing balance between the serious and the silly. Watching the smart-alecky Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and the straight-laced Harry Hart (Colin Firth) work together as fellow Kingsman agents for the first time is thrilling and, at times, even heartwarming. Eggsy clearly wants more respect from Harry now that he’s officially an agent, and (though it takes a while) Harry eventually gives it to him.

Julianne Moore’s Poppy is also a delightful combination of Stepford Wives-esque pep and Walter White-esque ruthlessness, luring minions to her 50s-inspired sanctuary and destroying them when they disobey her rules all with a bright smile on her face. Plus, seeing her boss around spoiled rich kid-turned lackey Charlie is pretty satisfying.

But unlike The Secret Service, which focused on Eggsy learning about and trying to become a member of Kingsman, The Golden Circle tries to do a little too much. On one hand you’ve got Eggsy, Harry, Merlin, and the gang trying to shut down Poppy’s drug ring. On the other hand, you’ve got Eggsy and Merlin trying to bring Harry up to speed after discovering that, despite evidence to the contrary, he’s not actually dead. The President is somehow involved in all of this, too.

Then you’ve got the Kingsman agents trying to work with the members of Statesman, Kingsman’s American equivalent. Kingsman director Matthew Vaughan brought in heavy-hitters like Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, and Jeff Bridges to play some of Statesman’s most prominent members. But Bridges’ Agent “Champ” Champagne barely gets five minutes of screen time, and after an exciting and memorable introduction Tatum’s Agent Tequila spends most of the movie in a state of near unconsciousness. Even Halle Berry’s Ginger, who has the potential to be an interesting, likeable new character, gets an arc that’s only introduced over halfway through the film.

One new character who does get a lot of screen time is pop music icon Elton John, Poppy’s in-house, piano-playing hostage. John is by no means a great actor, but his willingness to make fun of himself is apparent in a film that has him attacking a robotic dog and kicking someone in the face to the tune of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

Vaughn seems to be using The Golden Circle as a sort of bridge between The Secret Service and the rest of the Kingsman franchise, if Harry’s words about his recent adventures being “the end of the beginning” rather than the “beginning of the end” are any indication. Plus, the final shot of Tatum walking by the Kingsman tailor shop in a suit and bowler hat makes us think that Kingsman and Statesman could be trading places in the near future.

But while the Statesman members are certainly entertaining to watch, particularly Tequila and the boisterous Agent Whiskey (Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal), their inductions came with a sacrifice, as the film essentially ignores Roxy (Sophie Cookson), Arthur (Michael Gambon) and the other members of Kingsman to make way for fresh meat.

And while several attempts at humour are effective (e.g. the prim and proper Merlin doubled over drunk and talking about KFC), others fall completely flat (e.g. Eggsy using a tracking device that looks like a miniature condom).

We’re excited to see what Vaughan does with the Kingsman franchise going forward, but we hope that The Golden Circle’s inconsistencies are just symptoms of sequel-itis rather than indications of what’s to come.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is open in theatres starting today. Check out the trailer below.