There are a couple of very distinct ways to handle movies whose action sequences more closely resemble a video game than reality.
First, like the recently released “American Assassin,” you can play it off as a serious piece of drama steeped in reality – minus the boatload of seemingly normal people performing feats of strength generally reserved only for Festivus. Second, you can embrace the ridiculousness of those feats and match, or possibly surpass, them in ridiculousness in every other aspect of the storytelling.
Taron Egerton stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” also starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Elton John, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. (Photo by Giles Keyte. TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)
The former can be sometimes confounding. The latter, while not always effective, is usually entertaining and pretty straight forward.
Luckily, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” follows its predecessor and the prescribed path of “all ridiculousness, all the time.”
“Golden Circle” picks up after the events of 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) having taken on the Kingsman persona of Galahad after his mentor, Harry (Colin Firth), met his demise.
The once rebellious Eggsy has settled nicely into his Kingsman role – he’s acting the part, dressing the part, and keeping the world safe while keeping the attention off the secret order.
However, that blessed life takes a turn for the negative when a familiar, villainous face from Eggsy’s past returns – under the guidance of super villain Poppy (Julianne Moore) – to declare war on Eggsy and the Kingsman order.
With no other options, Eggsy must look for assistance in a most unlikely place … Kentucky, in the form of the Statesman (Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, et. al) – the Kingsman’s less-refined cousins.
Halle Berry stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," also starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges. (Photo by Giles Keyte. TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)
First things first: if you haven’t yet seen “The Secret Service,” you’ll want to go ahead and do that before diving in to this one. This is not one of those sequels you can just jump into and understand from the beginning. Sure, the story isn’t overly complex, and anyone with working eyes can follow insane car chases, hand-to-hand combat, killer robots, and explosions, but there are some subtle things that add to the story that will be lost if you don’t have the background.
Secondarily, you HAVE to be able to accept the ridiculousness of the whole package to truly appreciate it. Clearly, director Matthew Vaughn has. If you can't accept a movie that's essentially “Austin Powers” with action that makes Jason Bourne look like an amateur, well, then you probably need to look elsewhere.
That's not to say “The Golden Circle” is flawless, because it's certainly not.
At just under 2 ½ hours long, it's not only far too long, but it's unnecessarily long. At that length the story is pretty thin, and it relies completely on the action to fill in the sizable gaps. That means that even with as crazy and often entertaining as those scenes are, they sometimes run a bit long.
My other complaint is that while the movie does a good job of showcasing Egerton (who I'm not 100% sold on as a leading man) and provides a refreshing change of pace by utilizing Moore as a pretty hilarious villain, it doesn't utilize the outstanding supporting cast as much as it should.
Tatum, Bridges, Berry, and Mark Strong (who returns as Merlin) could have – and should have – been utilized more to balance out the story. Instead, the Statesman are never really explained or play a big role. My assumption is they were introduced for a future spin-off or upcoming sequel, but this felt like a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Channing Tatum in Twentieth Century Fox’s "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," also starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Elton John, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. (Photo by Giles Keyte. TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.)
“The Golden Circle” isn't going to win awards or garner critical acclaim, but following a rather bland summer at the box office, it provides some over-the-top fun while we wait for the meatier options that will be offered up this fall and winter.
★★★1/2 of ★★★★★