Before I say too much about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, I do want to acknowledge a few good things about the movie.
First off, it doesn’t take long for the film to reveal that Harry (Colin Firth) didn’t actually die when Samuel L. Jackson shot him in the head in the first movie. Undoubtedly, that diminishes the power of that scene but, at the same time, it also means that Colin Firth gets to come back.
Secondly, Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy. The script really doesn’t give him too many opportunities to show what he’s capable of as an actor, largely because the character of Eggsy was fully developed by the end of the first movie. Now that Eggsy is a fully trained and competent Kingsman, there’s not really much for him to do other than trade a few quips and take a few lives. That said, Egerton is a likable actor and he’s fun to watch.
Third, Julianne Moore has a few fun scenes as the film’s main villain, Poppy Adams. Poppy is the head of an international drug cartel. She’s also obsessed with the 1950s and always amazingly cheerful.
Fourth, all of the Kingsmen still wear suits and Michael Caine-style glasses. Colin Firth gets to use his umbrella as a shield.
Finally, Mark Strong is back as Merlin.
So, that’s five good things about Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Unfortunately, all five of those things are somewhat obscured by the fact that the movie really, really sucks.
Admittedly, I had really high hopes for the movie. I loved the first Kingsman film, which was a stylish satire that featured one of the greatest action set pieces of all time. And I was excited to see that not only was Firth returning but Matthew Vaughn would also be directing the sequel.
But no. This movie just doesn’t work.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle attempts to do everything on a larger scale than the first Kingsman. That means more violence, more betrayals, and a longer running time. This time, the movie not only features the Kingsmen but also the Statesmen, which is the American equivalent of the Kingsmen. (The Statesmen all dress like cowboys and speak in exaggerated Southern drawls, which I got kind of sick of listening to after about three minutes.) Along with the returning stars of the first film, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum all have small roles. Pedro Pascal (best known for playing Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones) has a much larger role as a Statesman codenamed Whiskey.
Unfortunately, bigger is not always better. The Golden Circle never comes close to matching the lunatic heights of the first movie. There are a lot of action scenes but none of them match the church fight from the first film. There’s a surprise death but it’s nowhere near as shocking or effective as Firth’s “death” in the first film. Even the required barroom brawl falls flat. Nowhere does The Golden Circle match the audacity of the first film. The first film ended with exploding heads. This film ends with the promise of more sequels.
But really, I think what really doomed The Golden Circle was that extended running time. There’s really no good reason for The Golden Circle to last for 2 hours and 21 minutes. Quite a bit of the film, especially during the first hour, felt padded out and, as a result, it seemed like took forever for the film’s story to actually get started. Probably 40 minutes to an hour could have been cut from The Golden Circle without anyone missing it.
Ultimately, I think the main problem is that the first Kingsman felt like it was made by people who truly did love the material. This film feels contractually obligated. The Golden Circle has a lot of action but it’s just not very fun.