Undeniably fun but hollow super-spy sequel.
Matthew Vaughn has been kicking-ass since 2010. First he brought a green-and-yellow scuba suit wearing hero to the screen in glorious, bloody fashion. He rebooted the X-Men franchise in first-class style in 2011. Then in 2014, he took a shot at the spy genre with super-parody Kingsman: The Secret Service, a slick, hilarious, action-packed caper with a lot of heart and the odd anal joke. His highly anticipated sequel retains the ambition of the first, but loses the heart.
Following on from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a fully fledged Kingsman agent. But when all of their headquarters are destroyed by drug lord tycoon Poppy – who has her eyes set on a narcotics monopoly worldwide – he must team up with the last remaining Kingsman, Merlin (Mark Strong) and their American counterparts, the Statesmen.
Returning also is Colin Firth as Harry Hart. Though the events of The Secret Service may make this slightly puzzling, rest assured explanations (however outlandish) are given. His performance in 2014 was characterisically un-Firth at times, transforming into a formidable force of nature, a sauve agent of precision and ruthlessness and generally, damn cool. His return here is handled slightly differently, not given the free reign this time round – but then again, this time Harry isn’t as much of a focus – it’s Eggsy.
Our opening taxi chase sequence is a bombastic, tastefully CGI’d thrill ride, easing us back into the crazy world of Kingsman. And crazier it gets. Vaughn told Empire that this sequel wasn’t a case of just going bigger, but after each wacky, phenomenal set piece, you can’t help but feel him looking for your approval. We jump from location to location, whether its snowy mountains in Italy for a boke-inducing cable car rollercoaster, a secret base in the Cambodian jungle for hyper-kinetic, adrenaline fuelled fight scenes, or to Glastonbury to watch Eggsy slip a digit – yes, really. The anal joke in the first landed with some and not with others, but Vaughn has brushed off any notion of giving a shit, retaining the smutty sexism that made the first more controversial.
The most famous scene from the first was without a doubt the church massacre, which saw Firth’s Harry obliterate an entire hate-congregation using guns, fists and church pews. It’s Vaughn at his best, arousing the viewers, getting their hearts pumping and moistening their palate for even more ultraviolence. The Cambodian assault in its entirety is clearly the spiritual successor to this scene, but it loses the gasp-inducing brutality in favour of silliness.
Silliness takes the stage front and centre, ignoring the character development which made The Secret Service a substantial treat. There are moments of greatness character wise, for example Moore’s Keith Allan Burger cooking Poppy is allowed teases of her absolute madness, Strong’s rendition of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ is set to strike a cord with Scottish audiences (I was nearly chanting it in the cinema) and Eggsy shows minor development, but is left with more cliché-poking puns and “bruvs”.
The Statesmen are an entertaining addition to the universe. We have Tequila played by Channing Tatum, a charismatic, delectably southern powerhouse who, frustratingly, is sidelined after a short meeting. Halle Berry is Strong’s equivalent, although lacks the gravitas which makes his character a favourite. Then there’s Jeff Bridges as Champagne (if you know what’s good for you, you’ll call him Champ). A typically likeable show from Bridges, although it is hinted he will play a bigger role in future installments. There’s also Elton John, who’s cameos quickly become a highlight.
Vaughn has tailored this berserk, ultraviolent, supersized follow-up for the fans, but forgot to sew the character development seam along the way.
Is The Golden Circle a worthy sequel to The Secret Service? Let us know in the comments, on twitter or on the Facebook page!