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Kingsman: The Golden Circle - Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

NOTHING succeeds like excess. It’s the motto of many sequels and it’s one that Matthew Vaughn fully embraces for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, his star-studded, fun-filled yet sometimes over-cooked sequel to surprise spy hit Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Clocking in at an excessive two hours and 20mins, this fast and furious follow-up has more than its fair share of inspired moments, yet also finds itself tip-toeing the line between good taste and bad, while simultaneously falling foul of some of the worst malpractices of franchise filmmaking.

Some of the plot points, for instance, are lazy given that they rely on recycled scenarios from the first film – with the climax, in particular, another race against time to save people from themselves. Whereas The Secret Service held them at the mercy of mobile phone technology, this one has them threatened by drug use (recreational or otherwise) and facing a ticking clock scenario. It’s a follow the formula bad practice that even films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens fell prone to.

Similarly disappointing is Vaughn’s decision to ramp certain moments of action up to ridiculously absurd lengths, which negates some of its peril. By making certain characters so gravity-defying and ‘death-proof’, the film veers more into superhero territory and loses some of its edge.

It’s a criticism that extends to the decision to bring back Colin Firth, apparently dead after the first film in one of its many jaw-dropping sequences. Here, he’s back (we won’t tell you how) and while certainly welcome, his presence deprives the franchise of its ability to create lasting shocks. Can audiences therefore really believe the fate of any character moving forward?

With all this in mind, it perhaps sounds contradictory to say that some of the aforementioned weaknesses also emerge as strengths (with Firth’s return being a case in point). The over the top nature of proceedings as a whole, meanwhile, does allow Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman to go mad doing as they please, which in turn leaves room for a different kind of innovation and shock value.

An extended cameo featuring a foul-mouthed Elton John works surprisingly well and generates some of the biggest laughs, while the decision to completely ignore the A-list status of some cast members means that a few are relegated to the side-lines far more quickly than audiences might expect.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Vaughn’s relish for absurd action can also be as eye-catching as it is retina-popping. An opening brawl inside a taxi, mid-car chase through London, is really well executed and consistently capable of outdoing itself (a la James Bond), while the big finale is stylishly orchestrated and suitably carnage-strewn.

On the flip side, his determination to be as un-PC as possible gives rise to several bad taste moments, including one or two nods to the infamous anal sex gag that divided opinion in the original (with an outrageous sequence at Glastonbury sure to be equally so).

It’s a measure of the film’s overall success, however, that despite its hit-and-miss elements it still entertains tremendously for long periods.

The cast is uniformly good, with Taron Egerton and Colin Firth once again combining well. Their continued relationship is another of the film’s strengths and Vaughn ensures they have just about enough room to see it grow.

Mark Strong is also on outstanding form as the returning Merlin, while Julianne Moore is clearly having fun as the main villain (adopting the Samuel L Jackson approach to adopting a different spin to doing bad things – this time with a smile on her face throughout). Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal and Edward Holcroft also put in good work to make their characters worthwhile additions, even if the likes of Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry feel under-used.

And while certain elements of the globe-trotting plot do feel over-familiar (both within a spy context and a Kingsman one), Vaughn and Goldman do still manage to toss in some interesting variations to certain revisits, including a humorous take on Firth’s ‘manners maketh man’ lesson.

Taken as a whole, Kingsman: The Golden Circle offers crowd-pleasing, popcorn fun that’s easy to get lost in. And while certainly inferior to the original, it does more than enough to ensure that this fledgling franchise remains in rude health should Vaughn and company wish to return for a third or fourth time.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 141mins
UK Release Date: September 20, 2017