Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Edgerton, Julianne Moore, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal, Hanna Alström, Halle Berry
Rated: R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is the second installment in the Kingsman franchise, based on Mark Millar’s comic books. If you are familiar with Millar’s work, you know what you’re getting into before you head to the theater. The new film is a bit more lighthearted than the first, but it still includes people getting fed into meat grinders – and one of them ending up as a burger. Like the first film, it’s intended as a sendup of the spy-thriller genre, but it doesn’t really succeed.
Our protagonist, Eggsy (Taron Edgerton), has done pretty well for himself since the events of the first film. He’s a full-fledged Kingsman agent, is living with the princess he hooked up with at the end of the previous flick, and he has a solid social life to boot. This all goes sideways, of course, when the new baddie destroys all Kingsman buildings and poisons the world’s supply of recreational drugs. Cartel queen Poppy (Julianne Moore) offers to hand out the antidote once her various demands are met. Remaining Kingsman Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) piece together clues and find their American counterparts, the Statesmen, who have Eggsy’s believed-dead mentor Harry (Colin Firth) under their care. Harry, Eggsy, Merlin, and the Statesmen team up to stop Poppy’s dastardly plan.
There’s plenty of action, much of it enjoyably ludicrous. If you love weird spy gadgets, you are in for a treat. The Statesmen have weapons like an electrified retracting bullwhip and a headwrap that fixes fatal gunshots, Poppy has a variety of robots at her beck and call, and so on. The Kingsmen still have their standard-issue bulletproof-umbrella-guns and hand-grenade lighters, and we also get exploding aftershave and a rocket-launcher briefcase. The production values are high, with solid special effects and cinematography.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is heavyhanded and ridiculous, but that goes with the territory, right? Unfortunately, though, the film keeps a lot of the flaws of its source material without bothering to mock them or even suggest that they’re flaws. Women are relegated to support roles, sex objects, or villainy; all the most heroic characters are straight white males; compassion and love are to be mocked, if displayed at all; and so on. The addition of gross-out humor and a lone Black character do not somehow transform all of this into clever satire.
If you just want to turn off your brain and enjoy some impressive visuals, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is probably a solid selection. If you are looking for a film with heart or intelligence, or even a halfway decent spy satire, steer clear.