Back in 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service came out, based on the comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and really surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. It was a ridiculously fun spy movie. Sure, part of the appeal was seeing Colin Firth in an action role, but the movie was more than that. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is more of the same.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a fun continuation of the previous movie. However, it is not without it’s own slew of problems. First off, we’ll start with non-spoilery stuff. The camera work was dizzying at times during hand-to-hand fight scenes. Remember how the Bourne movies made the “shaky cam” popular in fight scenes? Remember how awful it was to try to follow a fight scene with that “shaky cam” going? Well, here they step that up a bit.
The camera is not “shaky,” but it is moving around all the time during hand-to-hand fights. The first of these fights takes place within a cab. The camera continually circles around the two fighters. I think that the point is to show how frantic this fight is. But really, it just made the fights confusing. It is difficult to tell who is doing what. The gun fights did not have this issue. Most of those stayed relatively wide, so that you could get a good view of who was doing what.
The story excels when it keeps things simple. A jilted former recruit wants revenge? Fine. A moral dilemma between completing the mission and not cheating on your girlfriend? Great. Surviving a head shot because of some scientific goo? Not so good. Specify that the poison takes 12 hours to go from first signs to death and then travel from Kentucky to Scotland to Kentucky to Italy to Kentucky to Cambodia? Pretty bad.
Relationships are not something normally seen maintained during spy movies. The traditional trope established in the Bond movies is that you end each movie with a different girlfriend. By the time the next movie starts, the previous relationship is discarded. Or, you go the Bourne route, and kill her off in the first 10 minutes, and have the hero be emotionally uncapable to get into another relationship. Here, it was refreshing to see that when Eggsy (Taron Egerton) hooked up with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) at the end of The Secret Service, that hook up became what appears to be an honest, loving relationship. She knows about his life as a secret agent, so there is no cliche scene of her finding out and getting angry. There is the funny, then awkward scene of Eggsy calling her, asking for permission to, we’ll say get handsy, with the girlfriend of someone they are trying to track down, by placing a tracking device in a mucus membrane. Of course Tilde is not happy about it, but Eggsy still has to complete the mission or millions will die.
A spy organization in the USA, The Statesman, was introduced. Their cover is that they run a bourbon operation out of Kentucky, because where else would you run a bourbon operation to hide your spy organization. Where the Kingsman code names are from Arthurian legend, the Statesman code names are all types of alcohol. The leader is Champagne (Jeff Bridges), with Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). Of course, their non-field agent is nicknamed Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), because she’s never on actual missions. It is all over-the-top cowboy portrayals. Something fun to play the British spies off of. However, possibly the entire point of The Statesman being introduced was that they needed a way to bring Harry (Colin Firth) back from the dead. Which unfortunately, was spoiled in the trailers.
I would have preferred to have been surprised by this. It should have been a big moment when Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) are shown that Harry is alive. To help convey the emotions they are feeling, the viewer should have been going through it with them. By showing that he is alive beforehand robs the moment of some of its impact. The rescue is explained as happening because The Statesman had noticed the shootout at the church from the previous movie, and flown in right as the bad guys were escaping. They had developed some type of device to save agents from head wounds by preserving the neural pathways, and starting to repair tissue damage. It looks like goo. And it is not at all believable. Even for a spy movie with high tech gadgets.
I probably should mention the villain, Poppy (Julianne Moore). She runs The Golden Circle, and is behind all of the world’s drug trade. Her headquarters are some “undiscovered” ruins, that she has added buildings to to make it appear like the 1950s. Also, in possibly one of the greatest cameos ever, she has kidnapped Elton John (Elton John), and makes him perform at her command.
Her plot is a ridiculous plot where she has poisoned her supply, and will not release the antidote unless the President of the USA legalizes all drugs. It is a pretty stupid plan, as you are risking the lives of your customers. The President does not care. He figures that this is only impacting criminals. If all drug users die, then there will be no more drug dealers, and poof, he just won the war on drugs. This is where the timing starts to get weird as the good guys go from being notified by Poppy that this is happening to tracking down a supply of the antidote, to tracking down Poppy’s headquarters themselves. It is a whole lot of traveling in not nearly enough time.
Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an enjoyable movie. If you enjoyed the first movie, I do not see any reason why you should not like this one. There are nice over-the-top performances, unrealistic action that you expect, and a story that only occasionally does not make much sense when you think about it. I encourage you to go see this movie.