Main cast: Colin Firth (Harry Hart), Julianne Moore (Poppy Adams), Taron Egerton (Gary “Eggsy” Unwin), Mark Strong (Merlin), Halle Berry (Ginger Ale), Channing Tatum (Tequila), Jeff Bridges (Champagne), Pedro Pascal (Whiskey), Edward Holcroft (Charles “Charlie” Hesketh), Hanna Alström (Crown Princess Tilde), Bruce Greenwood (President of the United States), Emily Watson (Chief of Staff Fox), and Elton John (himself)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Taron Egerton is without doubt one of the luckiest sons of bitches in Hollywood. He is so uncharismatic that he makes Keanu Reeves look like legendary in comparison, sports even fewer facial expressions than the giant heads of Easter Island, and says his lines with all the wit of a dead fish left lying in the sun for too long. There is a good reason why, despite headlining two movies in a row, he only gets third billing in the movie poster of the second one – this guy is just terrible in every conceivable way, and he doesn’t even look halfway decent enough to suggest that he’s in this movie for aesthetic purposes.
Anyway, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, of course, the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service. Don’t be fooled by the cast listing: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood, and Emily Watson have basically walk-in roles in only a few scenes, while Channing Tatum has as many lines and scenes as Sophie Cookson, whose character Roxy gets killed off shortly after the movie begins. Aside from a casting agenda that makes this movie seem far more star-studded than it actually is, it also takes all that is dumb about the previous movie and bloat everything up. Yes, this includes double the number of anal sex jokes as well as humiliating portrayal of women – while I do appreciate such politically incorrect elements in a movie during the sanitized climate of these days, I go ugh here because the movie is disingenuous. But I’ll get into that later.
The plot is simple: Eggsy is now running the show and trying to keep his romance with Princess Tilde going, but that is hard when Poppy Adams, the leader of the world’s biggest drug dealer rackets with a thing for everything 1960s (she decorates her drug-dealership HQ in an abandoned temple in Cambodia into some 1960s American pop culture theme park, manned by automatons and robots as well as mercenaries), hires Eggsy’s nemesis Charlie to kick start her eventually successful effort of destroying all the current Kingsman in existence. Unfortunately, Eggsy is away having dinner with Tilde and her parents, so he doesn’t die, while Merlin’s address is not on the staff listing so he avoided getting blasted by a missile like poor Roxy and Arthur. These two run off to America to seek help from their American counterpart – Statesman, an organization that fronts as a bourbon distillery in Kentucky – and meet a colorful motley crew. The most important ones are Whiskey, a lasso-cracking agent, and Ginger Ale, Merlin’s American counterpart. Everyone else is basically a cameo appearance or, in Mr Tatum’s case, an effort to give this movie some semblance of “contemporary mainstream appeal” (let’s face it, everyone else in the cast listing is either irrelevant or no longer hot property) while minimizing his screentime to keep his salary low.
There are some fun elements here: Poppy’s entire sweetheart persona that barely hides a ruthless streak, Whiskey being a badass, and Merlin getting his character fleshed out more. However, Eggsy remains an idiot with no charisma or personality, while Harry – who turns out to be alive, having been rescued by Ginger Ale and Tequila shortly after getting shot in the previous movie – is actually unnecessary as his role adds little to the plot. Maybe Colin Firth has blackmail pictures of Matthew Vaughn to allow him to come back in this one?
The rest of the movie is just bloated, tedious action scenes interspersed by uninspired, hackneyed lines. Emotional scenes fall flat, as the characters mouth off lines that seem to be lifted straight out of greeting cards or daytime talk shows. Action scenes are overlong, too fast at times to be coherent, and feel as fake as can be. There is also an appearance of Elton John, playing a kung-fu fighting version of himself, that should have been funny but only feels like stunt casting fallen flat. And yes, he offers Harry his “backstage pass” because, haw haw, gay men propositioning straight men is always the funniest thing ever, haw haw. Really, even the one-liners feel recycled, taken from far more interesting movies that came before it, and the whole “scenes of violence with cheerful pop music played at loud volume in the background” thing is so overused these days. Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels like it’s nothing more than all the current tentpole action movie tropes tossed together into one overlong and tedious bog that runs for almost two and a half hours.
But its biggest issue is its disingenuous approach. Harry and Eggsy are two violent sociopaths, especially Eggsy who in the first ten minutes of the movie shows little emotion when his driver is killed as a result of his fight with Charlie – Eggsy instead complains about how inconvenienced he is by the situation. These two morons cheerfully kills a villain without checking to see whether the villain has given them the correct password to save the world, basically making promises to the villain without any intention of delivering, and at the same time this movie pass off these two as honorable and noble. In other words, the main characters are ruthless twats with cracked moral compasses, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but because the people behind this movie want to pander to the biggest audience possible, these characters are passed off as more conventional superheroes with more straightforward morality. This only adds to the whole sense of dissonance I experience while watching this movie.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, at the end of the day, a potentially interesting movie killed by a thoroughly subpar script that treats everything as unimaginative tropes, a horridly untalented lead actor, and its refusal to admit that it is a misogynistic tale of amoral twats and instead claiming to have some kind of moral high ground.