It was something of a surprise back in 2014 that Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was such a big hit across the globe. In the UK, it had enough Bond and Bourne-like elements to appease audiences as well as the dash of Colin Firth, Michael Caine and indeed Vaughn himself. But no-one could have predicted the $400million worldwide takings that the film managed to collect – but with such a big haul, a sequel was inevitable, and so it proved as taking its cue from its success in the US, the films goes trans-Atlantic this time – but is it a case of more of the same or a worthy successor?
One year later: thriving as the new “Galahad” at London’s favourite tailors, Eggsy (Edgerton) is filling the void left by his mentor Harry aka the original “Galahad” (Firth) despite his ghost till looming large. He’s soon set back to work after being set upon by an old ally-turned-rogue who is now in cahoots with drug peddler Polly (Moore), the latest pretender to the villain crown who wants world domination. Such is the maniacal scheming of Polly, Eggsy and Merlin (Strong) need reinforcements and are soon across the Atlantic to Kentucky and a long-silent partner of the Kingsman: The Statesman, led by Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum.
As many fans we attest, the ratio of good sequels to bad ones nestles firmly towards the negative side with only a few able to marry anticipation with more of the same and something new and inventive. Most recently, The Dark Knight has been the trail-blazer for many follow-ups, such as it’s herculean financial and critical success, and with the talent involved across the board here, The Golden Circle certainly had enough to elevate to such illustrious company.
Sadly it falls short – sure, it brings everything you loved about the first one and the same gusto and showmanship you would expect under Vaughn’s watchful eye but it doesn’t ever reach into the realm of the unexpected, into the fresh and new, instead sticking to what it did best and pumping the noise and volume up a few decimals. You can’t really fault Vaughn or indeed writer Jane Goldman for wanting to follow a successful blueprint but sticking so rigidly to type soon becomes tiresome and frustrating. Indeed, some of the story strands here fell lazy and underwhelming while others once again see the filmmakers push the levels of decency a little too far.
But there are still things to recommend here, notably Julianne Moore’s magnificent performance as the films big-bad: the Oscar Winner herself has said that Gene Hackman in 1977’s Superman was her basis for the character and you can see the resemblance – cold and calculating yet still alluring and persuasive enough that their way might actually be the right way. It’s not, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it briefly. The rest of the cast are good and fill the screen with the bravura you would expect but some are given very little to work with and seem much more token that they ought to.
While those who adored the first are sure to have a blast, and there are certainly worse and more forgettable films than this in 2017, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is hugely disappointing. Flashes of brilliance, for sure, but they are few and far between in this more expansive but somehow more hollow sequel.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is released on September 20th.