Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 surprising smash hit spy movie, is now here. Here’s our verdict…
I’m a James Bond fan through and through but, you know what, Kingsman: The Secret Service is probably my favourite spy movie ever. It’s not perfect, but the film’s smarts, humour and fearless, outrageous spirit make it a joy to watch. I was so excited for this sequel, then, and desperately hoped that it would live up to the first. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have read a lot of reviews before this one that made it clear that The Golden Circle is not as good. Well, while I can’t argue with that, I don’t find the gulf between them to be quite so massive.
Let’s get the weak stuff out of the way first. At 2 hours 20 minutes, The Golden Circle is only 10 minutes longer than the first film but it feels like a lot more. Sandwiched in between a thrilling opening and a flawed but balls-to-the-wall finale, the movie’s middle-act feels cluttered with subplots and needless characters. While it is great to see Colin Firth suit up again as Harry Hart, the explanation for his survival from his apparent death in the last film is convoluted and cheapens the stakes anytime a character is in danger. There’s another lad-pleasing sex scene which feels misjudged. And there is a serious lack of Sophie Cookson’s Roxy.
For all its faults, though, I had a blast watching The Golden Circle. It’s even bolder, crazier and sillier than the first movie but it manages to hold its excess together better than most sci-fi spy movies (hello Die Another Day). The villainous scheme once again is fuelled by some welcome social and political satire which gives the film more bite than most Bonds. While there is no single scene that matches either the bar or church sequences from the original, Matthew Vaughn’s direction is still as stylish as ever and the film itself probably looks better thanks to the extra globe-trotting locations.
But it is Taron Egerton who lifts the film on his shoulders and makes it as good as it is. It says a lot about the newcomer’s talent that he can outshine a cast full of A-listers like Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and more. Egerton makes Eggsy a noble, likeable soul, even if the script plays a duff note with the character. I also enjoyed how – minor spoiler incoming – spy movie conventions are subverted by Eggsy actually having a steady girlfriend he wishes to remain faithful to.
Speaking of the new American additions to the cast, much was made of Kingsman’s US cousins Statesman in the marketing. As it is, most of these big names don’t get much to do and are purely here to set up their roles in the upcoming closer to the trilogy. While I’m still very excited for what Vaughn has in store for us next time, I hope he can reflect on The Golden Circle and tighten things up again for the third film.
Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is probably just as much of a joy to experience as The Secret Service. But whereas that film holds up to repeated viewings, cracks start to appear in this sequel the more you think about it. Out of the two Kingsman movies so far, The Golden Circle definitely gets the silver.
If I had my critical hat on, I would probably have to give this a 3 1/2 but, as a viewer, I really enjoyed myself so I’m bumping it up half a star…
Final spoilery thought (highlight below if you have seen the film):
What’s the betting that Merlin ended up surviving that explosion at the climax after all? While that would cheapen his emotional death scene, I do love Mark Strong’s Scottish Q so I do kind of hope he comes back.