Welcome to Statesman.
Kingsman: The Secret Service, was a standout film. It was cheeky, humorous, and action-packed, despite an eye-roller of a scene with the captive Swedish Princess during the finale of the film. Matthew Vaughn is back in the Director's (and writer's) chair and delivers a mostly painful sequel that attempts to one-up everything that made the first film so special, and by result, makes this one anything but.
The Golden Circle is your typical Hollywood sequel; take what worked in the first film and turn it up to 11. This means more action, more humor, and a larger ensemble cast. The problem is that the cast is just far too big and many characters are either killed off quickly, disappear early in the film, or barely have any real screen time and are off camera until the plot needs to progress. There are also so many twists and turns that the film loses a lot of its focus.
The film delivers a solid first act with a stylish car chase that has the action take place outside and inside a cab and is quite enjoyable. The final act does have a stellar action sequence when the Kingsman breach the walls of the enemy fortress and an excellent fight outside of a cabin in Italy that is pretty well shot. Other than that, the film is drastically boring, and far more vulgar than it needed to be.
Where Samuel L Jackson was an over-the-top bad guy with a somewhat goofy plan in the first film, Julianne Moore is just flat out wrong here and, in some ways, ruins the film. She's clearly insane and her character is always a bit too cheerful and therefore, her plan doesn't feel important and you just can't care less about what she's doing. Any time she is on screen I felt my desire to enjoy the film lessen and even her resolution didn't bring the excitement I wanted when the good guys eventually prevailed.
The Golden Circle doesn't know what it wants from much of its supporting cast, as while the trailers showcase Channing Tatum, he's only ever used to introduce us to the Statesmen, the US branch of the Kingsman. There is also Jeff Bridges, but he is only there to talk about how the Kingsman fashion suits overseas and that the Stateman went into the liquor trade, and that's it. Halley Berry is there to stare at screens and then relay information, and the same can mostly be said of Mark Strong as well. And while much of the cast are massive award winners, they have an Academy Award nominee in Emily Watson, and she is used so incredibly poorly here, despite the drama she is going through.
I did enjoy the fact that the Swedish Princess and Eggsy are actually a couple now and that was actually something of a pleasant surprise, given the scene of the blonde in her lingerie shown in the trailer, a scene that actually sets up a good discussion about how a secret agent can have a girlfriend and the complications that arise when said secret agent "must" sleep with the enemy. The scene in question is handled well as first, but it lacked an on-screen resolution before the big scene at the film's end. There is also a scene that has no resolution at all despite how impactful it should be, and this is during the dinner scene with Eggsy and her parents. While we know the events that occur during this scene, there is no fallout or discussion about how the rest of the night went.
Taron Egerton is back as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin and despite not having a great script to work with, still, manages to salvage much of what he is on screen for. He's a very talented actor and does a great job continuing his character here. I also rather enjoyed Whiskey, as played by Pedro Pascal, notably from Game of Thrones, as he was one of the more interesting characters in the film and the only real Statesmen we see in action.
The central plot follows the events of the first film where Colin Firth's Harry is killed and Eggsy becomes a full member of the Kingsman. Colin Firth returns as Harry and this would have been a big reveal moment, but his appearance in the film is shown in nearly every trailer and advertisement used for the film, even against the wishes of Director Matthew Vaughn himself. Eggsy is one of the few remaining Kingsman after an attack wipes out nearly the entire branch and the remaining members then seek out the Statesman to figure out a counterattack against the organization, The Golden Circle.
While the action scenes can be enjoyable, and for the most part they are, the actual story is just a mess. The Golden Circle are infecting drug users with a mysterious blue rash and the central characters then enact a plan to shut down the organization and cure the infected millions. This involves moments of pure convenience and boring subplots that are only funny until they are not, as is the case with the entire Elton John story arc. Yes, Sir Elton John has a role in this film and might actually have more screen time than Channing Tatum himself.
While the first film did have a few eye-rolling moments, as I mentioned one at the start of this review, this sequel is packed full of so many that it can become distractive. Whether it is Sir Elton John winking and smiling at the camera, or the depiction of their President of the United States, the film brings with it more farce and than satire, as the previous film was a clever take on the James Bond movies, but that smart and clever setup isn't found anywhere here.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle can have its moments with its over-the-top action scenes and clever gadgets, but its characters, its story and its vulgarness just end's up making it a vastly disappointing sequel. Had the main villain been treated far more sinister and the whole President arc removed, then it could have been far more enjoyable and a much better film. As it stands, The Golden Circle is not the worthy sequel we wanted, In any shape or form.