There are a handful of sequels that are as good as (or better than) their progenitors – The Godfather 2, Superman II, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Dark Knight come to mind – and now Kingsman: The Golden Circle joins that elite list.
Following the heavy expositional load of the thoroughly entertaining first film, The Golden Circle expands character development (of Eggsy, at least) and introduces a delightfully pragmatic villain who has the best of intentions (and hopes to profit handsomely from them, too).
The film opens with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) being accosted by rejected Kingsman applicant Charlie – a physical battle that tacks place in, over and under the Kingsman taxi. It’s the kind of opening set piece that a Bond film would use as a single event to highlight 007’s skills – here, it’s a bit more than that.
In fact, it leads to the destruction of almost everything Kingsman – Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) are the only survivors.
The cause of the wanton destruction of Kingman’s agents and operatives? A sweet, cheery woman called Poppy (Julianne Moore) wants to take her worldwide drug business legit and they posed a threat to the successful completion of her plan (which involves seeding all her products with a biological weapon and forcing the President of the U.S. to legalize all drugs or watch millions of his countrymen die a horrible death).
The thing is, despite being American, she knows about Kingsman, but has no idea of America’s similar organization – Statesman.
Kingsman, though, has a Doomsday Protocol – which leads Eggsy (the new Galahad) and Merlin to Kentucky, where they discover that Statesman has just as impressive a set up as they had.
After some miscommunication, Eggsy and Merlin are ushered into the office of Statesman’s head, Agent Champagne (Jeff Bridges) – who makes it clear that he goes by Champ! We also meet Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) (see: miscommunication), Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) – the organization’s tech wizard – who would love to be a field agent.
Backing up for a moment, note that Eggsy is now living with Swedish Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), so when he has to go out to save the world again, she murmurs, ‘You know what that means!’ (a surprisingly sly reference to the first film) – and he gets to meet her parents.
Then there’s the matter of Harry (Colin Firth), the original Galahad – a nifty retrofitting finds him in Statesman’s custody, thinking he’s a lepidopterist. But, of course, he will figure in the action later – in surprising ways.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle provides unusual details (like Poppy turning her Cambodian jungle headquarters into a faux ‘50s American town – and kidnapping Elton John, which is not stunt casting, really); tries some impressive action set pieces (Agent Whiskey is very good with a lasso), and Poppy doesn’t trust many people so she’s got a few robotic aides.
The result is a beautifully shot spy film with creative action set pieces, some interesting new characters (on both sides) and plenty of drama and some incredibly funny (and/or, occasionally, squirmy) moments.
Director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn has actually outdone himself here – he has produced a sequel that feels just as fresh (and impudent) as its original.
If he wants to make Kingsman a trilogy, I’ll see that, too!
Final Grade: A