Eggsy must have been the only person who did not see the trailer for his own sequel, because it came as no surprise to anyone else that Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth, would be donning an eye patch this time around. Thankfully, the trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle gave just enough of these breadcrumbs away to be in good taste.
The audience may be able to anticipate the 30 second clips that have been screened, but those short scenes are seldom in the correct chain of events.
This is where Kingsman: The Golden Circle is able to build up the most suspense in a genre where the audience ultimately knows what to expect: hero shoots first, swears, double-taps with style, then saves the day.
With the majority of Kingsmen wiped out like splattered insects in the first 30 minutes, survivors Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton and Merlin, played by Mark Strong, rendezvous at the Kentucky Whiskey distillery, Statesmen.
Introducing a new set of characters, including hothead Agent Tequila played by Channing Tatum, Ginger Ale played by Halle Berry and Whiskey played by Pedro Pascal from “Game of Thrones,” the Statesmen pledge their allegiance to avenge the Kingsmen’s fallen brethren.
However, moving past the bombastic introductions, their purpose is better expressed through the allusions to Kingsman: The Secret Service than with their own backstories.
Right from the start a major plot twist is thrown at the audience—Agent Tequila is down for the count and stays that way for nearly the entire film. This comes as the biggest and most intriguing surprise, considering the trailer’s heavy emphasis on Egerton, Firth and Tatum kicking.
Film director Matthew Vaughn seizes this opportunity and the rest of the film has a pervasive sense of the unexpected. There are several clever moments of misdirection in the previews that give the audience, like the special agents, a false sense of security without spoiling too many action scenes.
The super villain, Poppy Adams, is played by Julianne Moore; by means of introduction, Poppy is clearly as sadistic as she is capable, however she rarely outdoes her first impression. Her method of world domination, poisoning every drug not available over the counter, is a well-juxtaposed but poorly established means of taking the entire world hostage.
The Golden Circle cartel she controls deserves more of a “Narcos” treatment in this regard. However, the lack of context given around Poppy’s rise to power undermines the impact of her fall and sacrifices any potential for depth in her character.
Unfortunately, the film shoehorns bite-sized exposition more than necessary, with one describing Poppy as a Harvard graduate who seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. Disappointingly, we know and learn as much about this elusive villain as the rest of the world—zip.
Strangely enough, Elton John, played by himself, is a more dynamic character. Imprisoned and forced to be the piano man of Poppyland, John is representative of The Golden Circle’s biggest strengths of comedic relief mixed into the usual bits of ultra-violence. By some bizarre blessing in disguise, John has more screen time than Tatum!
With Tatum out of action and the majority of the United States on an extremely lethal drug-cleansing program, the stakes have never been higher for the three remaining Kingsmen.
Their search for an antidote takes them everywhere from the snowy mountains of Switzerland to a music festival in Glastonbury, which includes the most dramatic trip past third base since the Cubs won the World Series.
The outlandish situations Egerton gets himself into this time around are still hysterical, although occasionally err on the side of bad taste. But it is Firth’s rehabilitation after his headshot trauma that is The Golden Circle’s true wild card.
While Firth recovers from the amnesia expected of someone who has had their brains blown out, he is nevertheless handicapped by the injury and risks being a liability to his teammates.
This creates a very interesting sort of identity crises—for both Egerton and Firth, as Egerton assumes Firth’s position after Samuel L. Jackson shoots him. The pupil must now take charge of his teacher and this makes for the most refreshing aspect of the film.
For a sequel that beats the dead horse out of impersonating James Bond films, The Golden Circle’s attempt at a new direction betrays its growing pains. When it sticks to its roots and is nothing but high-octane action, it is doing what it does best.
While it is not a step backwards, The Golden Circle only packs its punch with a handful of innuendos and shell casings and fails to reach any meaningful climax.