Not quite as inventive as its predecessor, ‘The Golden Circle’ proves to be quirky, brainless fun.
No one really expected 2015’s Kingsman to get a sequel, but it’s 2017 now, and anything is possible. The original spy comedy waltzed its way to being a modest box office hit, but not much buzz surrounded the younger, goofier James Bond.
Kingsman, The Golden Circle pops onto the screen, and it’s like slipping into a familiar tuxedo (probably bright orange, like the main character’s). With Taron Egerton as the star, you’re in good hands for as long as the writers allow.
Which, unfortunately for this time around, isn’t quite as much as the first. At 27, Egerton has a charismatic moxie rare for someone his age, and for someone with a list of films as short as his. He’s a showman, through and through.
So it’s disappointing that, even with the bloated 140-minute runtime, he’s given less humorous material to work with. The same is true for the whole movie. It’s still goofy, it’s still compelling, and the action is still a rambunctious joyride. Just not as much as it should be.
This time around, the agents are America-bound. The London-based agency the first movie focused on is compromised, sending Eggsy (Egerton) and a few other agents to the states. Julianne Moore is introduced as Poppy Adams, a worldwide drug entrepreneur bored with her power. She’s set up shop in some ancient Amazonian ruins, decorating it to look like a ’70’s-themed small town in the movie’s best set design.
Poppy has two robot dogs and literally Elton John (playing an over-the-top version of himself) to keep her company, but she tires easily. Played by Moore with an air-headedness that quickly turns vicious, Poppy messes with the Kingsman and poisons her drugs so that her worldwide customer base will only have a few days to find a cure.
Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (the latter of whom directed) take playful jabs at American stereotypes in the script, which introduces Channing Tatum as a rambling cowboy spy who values whiskey above all. Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Pedro Pascal round out the cast’s newcomers.
Perhaps Tatum’s role is symbolic of the whole film, because while he’s teased as if he will be a major character, he’s sidelined early on in the script and hardly heard from again. The film tends to make a lot of empty promises.
The script is sharp in dialogue but fuddled in storytelling — characters such as Tatum’s are granted huge introductions that amount to nothing, while others like Pascal’s bullwhip lashing Agent Whiskey pop from nowhere and play an important role in the story. Sloppy writing is what brings this one down.
It’s a good thing Vaughn’s campy action sequences are still a thrill, though. Despite glaring flaws, the film never loses its audience. The action scenes throw everything at the screen and leave it, whether it sticks or not. They’re filmed with jerky camera motions and intentionally bad special effects (at least, I think intentional), but they’re infectiously fun. Vaughn exercises several long continuous shots showcasing over-the-top combat and spy gear in battle. The film is based on a comic book series (just like every other movie this year) and it shows.
Egerton is able to be funny until a certain point when his character’s personal stakes raise, and he’s immediately less fun. That’s not how you use a personality like his in a movie. On the flipside, Elton John’s bizarre subplot slowly gains relevance to the main story, and Rocket Man is able to become one of the main comedic wells of the film.
Egerton won’t let the sun go down on John, though. He’s rumored to play John in an upcoming biopic, and that’s the best casting available. Egerton showed off his singing chops as an animated gorilla in last year’s Sing!. Let’s make this biopic happen. Show ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle. It’ll put Egerton’s talent to work better than this movie. ••