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Packed with nearly two-and-a-half hours of thrills, plot twists, over-the-top action, and edgy humor, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is an entertaining, albeit flawed, second installment of Matthew Vaughn’s spy universe.
Directed and co-written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, the film picks up where its predecessor “Kingsman: The Secret Service” left off.
Charming street-kid-turned-spy and main protagonist Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is living with his new wife Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) in the estate of his old mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Harry was a Kingsman who was shot in the eye and left for dead at the end of “The Secret Service.” Eggsy bears the alias of his old mentor within the Kingsman underground spy organization disguised as tailors based in London.
Within seconds of the opening credits, Eggsy finds himself under attack from his nemesis and Kingsman reject Charlie (Edward Holcroft) who is working for Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the leader of a drug cartel known as the Golden Circle. Calling the shots from a 50’s-themed hideout in South America, Poppy’s plan is to achieve economic domination by holding the world hostage with a deadly virus implanted in her widely-sold drugs.
Using data obtained from Charlie’s attack, Poppy sends missiles to annihilate the homes of the Kingsmen all over the world. Once the dust settles, the last Kingsmen standing are Eggsy and the cold yet brilliant former technology specialist of the Kingsman, Merlin (Mark Strong).
Eggsy and Merlin’s quest to stop Poppy leads them to rural Kentucky, where they discover an american counterpart to their spy organization disguised as a whiskey distillery: The Statesmen.
Led by agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Ginger (Halle Berry), and Champ (Jeff Bridges), the Statesmen are holding a valuable and surprising asset: Agent Harry Hart. Harry is alive but struck with frequent unconsciousness and fitted with an eyepatch to cover his wound.
The choice by Vaughn and Goldman to bring Harry back from the dead is a controversial one, especially because the film invented an egregiously powerful technology seemingly out of thin air to revive him. To me, the execution of this ‘big reveal’ was puzzling from a creative standpoint. If the Kingsmen have access to a plethora of high-tech disguised weapons, hologram-glasses, and futuristic cars, why wouldn’t they also possess this simple-looking technology to repair dead cells that their American counterparts have?
As the film progresses, Firth’s nuanced performance makes a strong case in favor of the writer’s choice because the story thrives on his adapting dynamic with Taron Egerton’s Eggsy. However, given the profound impact that Harry’s death had on Eggsy in the first film, to bring Harry back to nearly the same level of gravitas and combat skill as before detracts from the emotional impact and significance of the first movie beloved by so many fans.
One thing that “The Golden Circle” nails, however, are its action sequences. Full of close-ups, changes of pace, and energizing music, the fight scenes build on the iconic sequences of “The Secret Service.” The fight scenes are a tad predictable in their overall outcome, but each maneuver flows seamlessly and oozes creativity and originality.
The movie features an astonishingly high number of well-known actors and actresses, which is both a blessing and a curse. Mark Strong’s Merlin shines as he comes to the forefront more than than he did in “The Secret Service,” Julianne Moore’s Poppy is a devious and psychopathic spark, and Elton John plays himself in a hilarious cameo where he is kidnapped in Poppy’s 50’s-themed stronghold. Halle Berry also adds to the film as Statesman’s foil of Merlin who seeks to become a field operative.
Channing Tatum as agent Tequila and Jeff Bridges as agent Champ are introduced dramatically and grandly, only to be woefully underused throughout the film. It’s possible that Vaughan and Goldman have a third installment up their sleeve. However, Pedro Pascal’s agent Whiskey was largely disappointing as the member of the Statesmen who got the most screen time. I believe this was no fault of Pascal’s, but rather a fault of Vaughn and Goldman who wrote in a plot twist involving agent Whiskey that was superficially suspenseful, but ultimately hollow.
Some questionable plot choices in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” are outweighed by the film’s overall cleverness, charm, and excitement. After all, it is only natural that a movie as jam-packed and lengthy as “Kingsman” that takes so many swings for the fences, will inevitably whiff on a few.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a solid twist on a spy film and an intriguing addition to the “Kingsman” universe. At its core, the movie is an entertaining, fast-paced and fun story that is worth a trip to the theaters to see.