Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Elton John

Classification: MA15+ (Strong Violence and Sex)

Review by Peter Gray

Introducing us to the star quality of Taron Egerton and brilliantly casting Colin Firth against type, Matthew Vaughn’s 2014 surprise series starter ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ gave the spy film genre the jolt it needed to prove you can still teach an old dog new tricks. At the film’s core it was all very familiar, but Vaughn injected enough self-referential humour and over-the-top accessories for it to feel fresh, so there’s perhaps a sense of pressure applied to follow-up ‘The Golden Circle’ as the majority of ingredients that made the original such a stand-out have returned to hopefully survive the sophomore slump.

Admittedly, the one thing ‘The Secret Service’ had going for it that is sadly not in play in ‘The Golden Circle’ is that relishing feeling of the unexpected – did anyone see Firth’s supposed lead character Harry being killed off before THAT climax? – so as great as it is that his revived character is back in the game, it removes any sense of threat the film hopes to introduce. That’s not to say that this sequel is by any means terrible, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s aiming to be better or bolder than its predecessor, just louder and shrouded in more lunacy.

Even more outlandish than the first, ‘The Golden Circle’ manages to piece together a ridiculous plot of sorts that sees the Kingsman headquarters in London destroyed following a stealth attack from reclusive drug kingpin Poppy (a chipper Julianne Moore). Tucked away on an expansive landscape in Cambodia, Poppy has secluded herself due to the public perception that her line of business (in this case, drugs) is dangerous, and given that she’s certifiably insane she has retooled her surroundings to represent the America of yesteryear with 1950’s style diners and theatres within her compound, as well as creating robotic hounds and employees as machines are more reliable than humans; her penchant for all-things retro extends to an old-fashioned meat grinder that, unsurprisingly, is used for specific (ie violent) purposes on those she doesn’t see eye to eye with.

The titular Golden Circle refers to the organisation Poppy is overseeing, and in a bid to take down her global drug domination the Kingsman (which basically extends to Mark Strong beyond Egerton and Firth) visit their American counterparts, The Statesman, for suitable reinforcements. Whilst there is a bit of fun hinted at here with the introduction of Jeff Bridges as leader Champagne and Channing Tatum as cocky Tequila, the film never completely follows through, ultimately leaving Tatum and Bridges as little more than extended cameos and Pedro Pascal as the lasso-ing Whiskey to be the true main-player of the US brethren; Halle Berry, as a character dubbed Ginger Ale, is a formidable partner to Strong’s tech-guy but she too is sadly under-utilised.

Though the cast don’t all get their due, the surprising appearance of Elton John practically makes up for it, providing the film with some of its more entertaining material (the singer very much plays up his campy, diva-esque behaviour), particularly in the finale where Firth and Egerton storm Moore’s demented playground to the tune of ‘Saturday Night’s Alright’ ; though any audience member hoping for a sequence to match the unbridled insanity featured in the original film’s infamous church massacre scene will be disappointed.

I have no doubt though that fans of the original will enjoy the ridiculousness that ‘The Golden Circle’ serves up, and as far as entertaining goes it does the trick, but this isn’t as sharp or as risqué as ‘The Secret Service’ proved to be. To quote a Kingsman: “Manners maketh man”, and if Vaughn wants to maintain this franchise (a third film seems all but guaranteed going off the final frame here) than he needs to mind his own and respect his audience instead of dazzling us on autopilot.

My rating: 3/5

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