STARRING: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, ChanningTatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Sophie Cookson and Colin Firth.
DIRECTED BY: Matthew Vaughn
WRITTEN BY: Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman
In 2014, a little-known comic book property from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons became a global hit as a fully-fledged blockbuster. Kingsman: The Secret Service told the story of Eggsy Unwin, who is recruited into the Kingsmen, a clandestine organisation who save the world on a daily basis, all while sporting razor sharp tailoring courtesy of Savile Row’s finest.
The first film caused a stir upon its debut , most notably for its star turn from Colin Firth as Eggsy’s badass mentor Harry Hart (aka Galahad) and for its centrepiece brawler – a brutal massacre inside a Westboro Baptist Church facsimile as a brainwashed Harry slaughters equally hypnotised and bloodthirsty church members. It was easy to see why it raised significant controversy upon arrival.
While there’s no Biblical butchery in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, there is plenty to satiate fans of the first film. Helmed once more by Matthew Vaughn, a stalwart of offbeat comic book movies (particularly origin stories with obscure characters and training montages in stately homes), The Golden Circle sees the Kingsmen – a solid Taron Egerton’s chav-turned-gent Eggsy, his best friend Roxy (a woefully underused Sophie Cookson), and Merlin (an always game Mark Strong) face off against the slinky might and muster of Poppy (a glowingly sinister Julianne Moore), a lifestyle guru planning on world domination. Think Gwyneth Paltrow with more overtly murderous tendencies and you get the picture.
Of course, a big draw for the new Kingsman adventure is the return of Colin Firth’s deuteragonist Harry Hart, presumed shot and killed in the first film. This time, however, he sports an eyepatch and an improbable retcon as to how he’s back amongst the land of the living. Fortunately, Firth is always a joy and he throws himself back into the fray with gusto, proving that he could have been an amazing James Bond and that he makes any film instantly better with his presence.
The action sequences are as joyously over the top as usual, and while its gauche to point out the trend of sequels taking the best of what worked in the first film and adding more to them for the second, it fits well here with The Golden Circle. Sinister camp American conglomerate? Check. Henchman sidekick with prosthetic limb used as a weapon? Check. Gratuitous violence? Check and check.
The new additions to the cast, in the form of Kingsman’s American equivalent Statesman, also prove to be an overall pleasure – Channing Tatum is suitably cocky as Tequila, while Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale and Jeff Bridges’ Champagne are enjoyable enough to make them fun additions. The standout has to be Pedro Pascal’s Whiskey, a whipcracking scene-stealer who apes one of the first film’s key fight scenes and has a grand old time doing it.
There are, nonetheless, parts of the film which could have been consolidated or trimmed altogether; while it was a pleasure to see Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), the principled Swedish royal whose bare-bottomed hookup with Eggsy was a memorable moment in the first film, her relationship with Eggsy could easily have been cut altogether, and some actors unfortunately just feel shoehorned in (sorry Michael Gambon).
Fortunately the film is largely a success thanks to these over the top indulgences and solid reliance on formula. Taron Egerton is perfectly engaging as our hero, anchoring a wild premise with good characterisation, while Julianne Moore has a ball as an unhinged villainess with a gamely hilarious Elton John at her disposal.
It’s not a fantastic film, and many will find it derivative of itself, simply amping up the volume of the first film to be bigger and louder, which is a fair point. It is, however, ebullient in its silliness and willingness to go all out, and signals that if Vaughn and co. have their way, Kingsman 3 will be racing to the cinemas before you can say ‘Bottoms up’.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is on general release today in the UK.