After the somewhat surprising success of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, a sequel became an inevitability. But second album syndrome strikes its blow here as The Golden Circle is a bloated, messy, underwhelming affair.
Matthew Vaughn’s follow-up to the infinitely enjoyable Kingsman: The Secret Service rather jumps the shark, its bloated gut overegging the pie and unfortunately undoing a lot of what made the original 2014 film so much fun. There’s an argument that devotees of Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s action-comedy franchise starter might look past The Golden Circle’s flaws but I’d put money on most growing tired of the same gags being battered around the head for two-plus hours.
The film still made plenty of money at the box office. It’s easy to see why. The returning cast are still rather delightful – Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong. Newcomers fare less well though – Julianne Moore, Halle Berry and an ill-conceived and unwarranted extended cameo for Elton John and his inflated ego. It’s when you realise your groans are outweighing the laughs that Kingsman: The Golden Circle begins to quickly drag making its overlong running time of two hours and twenty minutes feel a lot longer.
If you’ve seen the first film you’ll remember that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart is dead. It’s now a year later and Egerton’s Eggsy is now a full-fledged member of the secret service and taken Hart’s title of Galahad. However, after all British agents are wiped out in an attack leaving only Eggsy and Strong’s Merlin alive, they travel to America to team up with a similar underground organisation. They agree to help each other to take down Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) and her Golden Circle drug cartel.
I suppose it’s a little unfair to totally disregard Vaughn’s sequel as an unholy, almost unwatchable mess. But that comes only as a result of the surprise success of the first film based on Dave Gibbons’ and Mark Millar’s comic book series Kingsman. It gave audiences subversive action-comedy with an X-rated edginess that felt wholly fresh against Marvel superhero overload. But the kinetic energy, bombast and playfulness on view in 2014 is here with no restraint giving The Golden Circle an out of control wackiness that instead of taking you for a ride, stops and starts urging you to get off.