Review: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” does it stack up to the original?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Thomas Shreve

2015’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was such a welcome surprise to just about everyone who saw it. It flew mostly under the radar until its release, which was met with glowingly positive reviews. The film was the perfect combination of raunchy comedy, explosive action and heart. Now, director Mark Millar is back with its sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” which attempts to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time.

From the moment the film opens it is non-stop action, moving at breakneck speeds. The action scenes in the first film were equally gruesome and entertaining, and the sequel amps them up to eleven. The action is for sure entertaining here again, but at times it can feel like a little too much.

While “The Secret Service” had it’s over the top gadgets and unrealistic fights, it all fit within the tone of the film. “The Golden Circle” leans a little bit more into the sci-fi realm this time around and often comes across as cheesy rather than funny. Instead of deadly henchman with blades for legs, we’re given two robotic dogs straight out of “The Jetsons”.

Even though they can be a little cheesy, the action scenes are still very fun to watch, however that is mostly what “The Golden Circle” has to offer. The first film had plenty of action, but was anchored by the emotional bonds between the Kingsman members. These emotional moments are still here but they are fewer and far between as the action now overshadows them. The three main Kingsman, Taron Egerton’s Eggsy, Colin Firth’s Harry Hart and Mark Strong’s Merlin, have all built upon their relationships from the first film and very convincingly come across as brothers who have been through hell together.

Speaking of the first film, much of what was established in the first film is immediately thrown out the window in this film, as The Kingsman’s home base is destroyed in the first few minutes. The Kingsman must then travel to the United States to work together with their American Cousin’s known as The Statesman. 

The Statesman are initially very fun and exciting. Both of these organizations serve to highlight stereotypes of their own country, with the well-dressed, polite British men and the blunt, heavy-drinking Americans. The dynamic between the two is entertaining and acts as a sibling rivalry as they both try and prove who’s better. Sadly, The Statesman have such a smaller presence than the marketing would have you believe.

A-listers Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges have been very heavily featured in the marketing of the film. I believed they were gonna be vital to the story, however, you could literally cut them out of the movie and lose nothing. Their combined screen time amounts to about a 10 minute cameo. It’s hard to understand why two actors were essentially wasted, when they fit so well into the Kingsman universe.

The only Statesman who has ample screen time is Pedro Pascal’s Agent Whiskey, who fits in perfectly with the rest of the cast members and plays off of the Kingsman very well.

The only cast member with ample screen time who really falls flat is Julianne Moore as the psychotic Poppy. The main villain of each Kingsman film really defines the tone of each individual film. Poppy embodies everything wrong with “The Golden Circle,” as she is crazy and strange and never feels like an actual human character, more just an embodiment of evil, or really just a plot device.

Julianne Moore is unable to bring any humanity to the character and instead leans into the zaniness of it all. Whereas Samuel Jackson’s Valentine from the first film was hilarious, charismatic and intimidating, Poppy is just one dimensionally evil.

While “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” can not quite match up to its predecessor as it chooses a much goofier tone, it is still an entertaining flick and worth watching for action and Kingsman fans alike.