This is relevant information you need going into Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The sequel to the surprise 2015 hit Kingsman: The Secret Service, Golden Circle is heavily advertising Channing Tatum as a new cast addition, but beware—it’s a glorified cameo and he’s only there to service one joke. It’s a decent joke, but the advertising is definitely tricky. (Jeff Bridges is, similarly, barely in the movie.) More relevant information you need is that Golden Circle is TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES LONG. It’s an ENTIRE HOUR too long. Even if you like Kingsman, this is too much. There is no universe in which a movie like this should be more than ninety minutes.
Golden Circle is a classic case of mistaking intelligence and complexity. It’s a spy movie, but Kingsman isn’t really about twisty plots or tradecraft. The first movie, and this sequel, both establish clear villains and bad-guy plots with no mystery as to who is doing what and why. This isn’t Atomic Blonde unwinding a double-cross or James Bond trying to find the man behind the shadow organization. We’re very clear on who is bad and what they want.
But because Kingsman is relatively straightforward, it’s like the filmmakers—including writer/director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman—feel the need to pile on contrivances and over-explain everything in order to seem “smart”. Kingsman is satire, poking fun at dark, dour Bond and grey Cold War stories by being the opposite—colorful, bright, splashy-flashy and gleefully violent. All Kingsman needs to do to be smart is understand itself and stay true to its concept, which the first movie does. But the sequel, despite being a comedy, takes itself too seriously. Suddenly this isn’t mocking Bond, but trying to be Bond.
Still, Taron Egerton is such a joy to watch, and Golden Circle gives him some emotions to work with beyond “cheeky”, as Eggsy struggles with the return of his presumed-dead mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth, who also gets some decent material to chew on), and keeping up a monogamous relationship with Princess Buttsex from the first movie. This is Golden Circle’s best idea, and it plays directly into the not-Bond concept—instead of sleeping around, Eggsy is happily in love and committed to Princess Buttsex, and the ole “sleep with a target for information” schtick is a real moral quandary. (Their relationship also attempts to clean up that tasteless anal sex joke at the end of the first movie, but an even more tasteless visual gag involving a finger completely undoes it.)
Everyone on screen appears to be having fun, especially Pedro Pascal and Halle Berry as “Statesman” agents, the US version of the Kingsman (there’s a lot of denim and liquor and everyone has a cheesy Southern accent except for Berry, who gets that earnestness is its own reward in comedy), and Julianne Moore as Poppy, the 1950s inspired drug queen-pin villain. Her plan to force the legalization of drugs isn’t entirely without merit—she points out the disastrous side effects the war on drugs has had socially and economically—and she’s gleefully over the top, right up to enjoying cannibalism. Kingsman is good at socially aware but batsh*t insane villains, and Poppy comes with fun touches like Elton John as a hostage and her goons wearing varsity jackets.
But the length of the movie makes it impossible to sustain momentum, and though parts of it are enjoyable enough, Golden Circle wears out its welcome before the third act even begins. It also commits the sequel sin of “bigger, louder, more”, a problem exacerbated by the length. There’s a shorter, sharper version of Golden Circle winnowed down to Eggsy’s growing pains as a lead agent, but we get a smorgasbord of new characters—many of whom are dismissed halfway through the film—and plot points that wander off in superfluous directions. 99% of the problems in Golden Circle come back to the length, and the other 1% is that incredibly misjudged gag with the finger.
Attached - Colin Firth and Lainey's boyfriend Taron Egerton at a press conference for Kingsman in Seoul yesterday,