Kingsman: The Golden Circle is what happens when James Bond gets high

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has more characters than it knows what to do with.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal
Score: ★★★

entertainment editor

If you’ve ever wondered what the James Bond franchise would look like if it decided to stop worrying about grit and just have fun, look no further than the Kingsman series.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) was off the rails, but its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is balls-to-the-wall insane, and not always in a good way.

Everything in The Golden Circle is dialled up to 11, including the already over-the-top action sequences of its predecessor. Unfortunately, this makes the movie occasionally lurch towards Austin Powers and Johnny English in terms of levels of absurdity.

The good thing about The Golden Circle is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. There are no deep philosophical themes, although it gleefully lampoons the “war on drugs”. 

The film starts a year after the events of The Secret Service. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has taken over the mantle of Galahad after his mentor Harry Hart’s (Colin Firth) apparent death in the first movie.

Taron Egerton offers much the same as the first movie, reprising his role as Eggsy.

He and Lancelot (Sophie Cookson) remain best friends, and the Kingsmen are flourishing under a new Arthur (Michael Gambon).

Everything changes when drug overlord Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) destroys all of the Kingsmen except Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) in one fell swoop.

The two remaining agents have to travel to Kentucky to unite with their American counterparts — aptly named Statesmen — to deal with Poppy and her nefarious plans for legalising the drug trade worldwide.

The film fits in numerous call-backs and references to its prequel, but manages to do so without making the prequel essential viewing.

There is also a different take on the phenomenal church fight scene from the first film, but it is a more intimate setting and therefore not quite as exhilarating.

That said, shooting an entire fight sequence in what looks like one extended shot with no shaky cam or fast cuts looks incredible on screen. More action films seem likely to follow this model, as 2017’s Atomic Blonde has already shown.

Much like the first film, The Golden Circle also is also likely to cause controversy.

Jeff Bridges is perfectly cast as the head of the Kingsman’s American counterpart, Statesman.

Around the middle of the movie, Eggsy has to seduce an evil henchman’s girlfriend. The scene starts out focusing on the character’s body and then plays out from a POV shot that becomes graphic without actually showing nudity.

Coming to the cast, Egerton is a relatable and thoroughly enjoyable leading man, while Colin Firth proves once again that he can give Liam Neeson a run for his action hero money.

Fans of Game of Thrones’ Oberyn Martell will be delighted that Pedro Pascal has a meaty role, but the other formidable cast members are lost in the shuffle. Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, and Jeff Bridges were marketed as having major roles in the film but ended up as little more than glorified cameos.

Antagonist Julianne Moore is essentially a comic book villain in line with Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine from the first film, but with absolutely none of his menace or unexpected humour.

Perhaps the most surprising turn came from a delightful F-bomb-laden extended cameo by Elton John, who played a hyperbolic version of himself.

Director Matthew Vaughn has amassed a steady stream of humorous and action-packed hits over his career. Films such as Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and, of course, the first Kingsman show he’s adept at shooting stylish-yet-gory action scenes, and The Golden Circle is no exception.

If anything, the stylish bloodletting is more pronounced here than it ever has been. This is a bit of a mixed bag because when it lands it looks terrific, but when it doesn’t, it comes off as somewhat cartoonish. Laws of physics are treated more like general suggestions.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is unlikely to win critical acclaim and isn’t as polished as its predecessor, but it is still a highly enjoyable action-comedy that will make for an enjoyable night out.