Following up on 2014’s “The Secret Service,” the second “Kingsman” film spends most of its runtime trying and failing to justify its existence. Like the first film, “The Golden Circle” is filled to the brim with rip-roaring action sequences, nifty spy gadgets and pretty people taking off their clothing. What this second film lacks that the first film so greatly had is originality.
Like the first film, “The Golden Circle” features a fantastic ensemble led by Taron Egerton (“Eddie the Eagle”) as Eggsy Unwin, now a world-saving superspy. Colin Firth (“Bridget Jones’s Baby”) and Mark Strong (“Miss Sloane”) also return to reprise their roles from the original film, joined by Halle Berry (“Kidnap”), Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”), Channing Tatum (“Logan Lucky”) and Julianne Moore (“Maggie’s Plan”) as an evil drug trafficker out to destroy the world. As should be obvious from these names, the cast is superb, and watching this many talented people hop around the globe saying silly things is certainly fun. But we’ve seen this all before, and with a plot that feels strangely similar to that of “The Secret Service,” it’s hard not to wish that director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”) had offered up something different with his sequel.
The thing that most differentiates this film from other sequels is the addition of the Statesman, a group of American spies that hides their organization behind a liquor business rather then a tailor shop. While the idea behind the Statesman is interesting, nothing much is really done with them. Other than a few cheap gags, the Statesman don’t add anything to the dynamic that the Kingsman already had.
The action sequences, which were a definite highlight of the “The Secret Service,” are still the main draw here. Vaughn employs a diverse use of slow motion, close ups and hyper-stylized movement to create truly unique action sequences. The problem is that there are just so many of them. It rarely stops. By the time the characters are making a final stand set to “Country Roads,” the audience has long ago lost interest. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is at least a half-hour too long and could probably have done with two or three fewer action scenes.
Since the film’s release last week Vaughn has said in numerous interviews that he intends to complete his trilogy with another Kingsman film before moving on to spin-offs (possibly involving the Statesman or others). If he wants this series to be remembered he’s going to have to work harder to make the third movie feel different from the first two. Right now it’s hard to imagine this formula working a third time. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” skates by on goodwill for the characters and the franchise held over from the first movie. “Kingsman: The Third Chapter” might not be so lucky.