Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the cinematic manifestation of the guy who thinks that dressing well and spending lots of money makes him less of a dick. The guy whose friends are only going out with him because he’s the one paying. The guy who reads blogs on ‘the art of manliness’ and peddles a crude, uncaring, misogynistic world view in the smirking, self-congratulating guise of ‘banter’. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a try-hard, and not nearly as cool as it thinks.
Following directly on from the first Kingsman, the sequel goes down the classic follow-up route of bigger (bigger stars, bigger budget, more exotic locations), but forgets about the better. In a direct repeat of the plot of the first film, the Kingsman agents must fight against a cartoonish, billionaire supervillain who threatens to cull the human race after people unwittingly infect themselves. In place of Samuel L Jackson, Julianne Moore is Poppy, a psychopathic former Harvard grad who’s become the world’s leading drug kingpin. But she’s lonely, homesick, and feels unappreciated in her Americana-styled lair in the Cambodian jungle. So she plans her transition into the world’s most powerful (legitimate) businesswomen. To do so, she must do away with all the Kingsmen apart from Eggsy (Taron Egerton, who struggles to make us care about him) and Merlin (Mark Strong, once again the best performer), who must team up with the American version of their private intelligence service – the Statesmen – to save the world.
For the next, seemingly endless, two and a half hours we’re treated to a succession of senseless, hyper-stylised, needle-drop action scenes. Their gleeful, mess-free violence and overreliance on poor CGI and slow-mo gives them the feel of a bad video game trailer, as well as a weightlessness that reflects the rest of the movie. There are no stakes here – while numerous characters are killed with barely a word spoken, others are quickly brought back from the dead. This waste of characters extends to the new American additions, clearly introduced to add traction in the international market but about as well used as the CGI. Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum make paycheck-collecting, glorified cameos as Statesmen agents, while the (mis)use of Halle Berry reflects the films overall attitude to women.
Women are impotent in this movie. It’s like the only options for them come from the game ‘f**k, marry, kill’, but with the addition of ‘save’. Roxy (Sophie Cookson), the only fleshed out female character from the first film, is quickly done away with, and there’s no action scene involving a woman (at least the first had the razor-legged Gazelle). Any female character is sidelined to just a plot point, while even its female supposed super-villain poses no hint of real threat to her male adversaries. There’s also a groan-inducing subplot where Eggsy has to plant a tracker on a villain’s girlfriend but, naturally, it will only work from inside her. You can guess the kind of hoots this is meant to induce, and the places of a teenage boy’s fantasy that it leads to.
The more you think about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the more you see through its surface charm. Beneath the energy and the flashiness, it’s just as dead behind the eyes as the first movie.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is in cinemas from 21st September through 20th Century Fox.