Whilst it lacks the spark and originality of the original, there's still fun to be had in the outlandish and over-the-top action.
If crafting a successful sequel wasn’t already an assignment bordering on the impossible, doing so for a movie distinguished by its quirkiness, surprise factor and overall uniqueness would seem outright insane. When said quirky movie, however (aka 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service), also took in over $400 million worldwide, that sequel ‘insanity' is trumped by ‘inevitability', resulting in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Let’s be clear: it’s a ridiculous movie in almost every respect, from the mad-capped story through to the action sequences, cameos and costuming. Everything in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is hyped-up, spun-around, slowed-down, blown-up or cut in half. Gravity is largely ignored, except when it’s used as a weapon and henchmen die with the same violent regularity as extras in Commando. Dead characters from the original are brought back to life via laughably ’scientific’ explanations, whilst most of the living characters are eliminated within the first ten minutes. There are robotic killer dogs, villains who engage in cannibalism, Elton John ninja-kicks a bad guy in the face and at one point a tracking device is inserted into a character’s privates via a phenomenally graphic ‘hands-on’ sex sequence. As we said, it’s ridiculous - but it’s also surprisingly entertaining.
Story wise, our villain this time round is none other than Academy Award winner Julianne Moore as ‘Poppy’ - the world’s leading and most ruthless drug tzar. Poppy’s Cambodian lair has been fashioned as an homage to 1950s Americana, complete with bowling alley, golden age cinema and the shake & burger diner in which she both conducts her business and minces her victims. She’s an apron wearing Stepford Escobar who owns every second of screen time given to her. Tasked with stopping Poppy are the eponymous and bespoke-suited ‘Kingsmen’, namely chav-turned-gent ‘Eggsy’ (Taron Egerton) and his tech man Merlin (Mark Strong). Back, too, is Colin Firth’s Galahad (no spoilers - it’s in the trailer), suffering from a nasty bout of ‘bullet-through-his-eye’ retrograde amnesia, as well as their US counterparts known as ’The Statesmen’ (Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges and a criminally-underused Channing Tatum).
Silly and fun as it might be, there are some glaring problems with this film, most notably that it’s unfathomably sexist. With the one exception of Julianne Moore’s Poppy, every single woman in Kingsman: The Golden Circle exists only as a victim or an assistant to her male counterparts (in most cases - it's the former as a consequence of the latter). Given the movie was co-written by Jane Goldman, it’s beyond comprehension why such rampant and unnecessary gender bias could exist in a movie where masculinity plays no meaningful purpose. Yes, it’s about spies in sumptuous suits, but as one of the early scenes demonstrates - Eggsy’s best friend and colleague Roxy looks as good if not better in the ole pin stripes and paisley, to say nothing of her abilities.
Still, it is entertaining in spite of its many flaws and it thankfully retains enough shock factor to honour the original movie. There’s also no doubt, thanks to it’s conclusion, that this is being prepped for a trilogy instalment, so - love it or leave it - there’s more of the Kingsmen to come.