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Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review – A Spy Caper with enough Shake but not enough Stir

The Kingsman sequel doubles down on its gadgets and A-listers but neglects its narrative arc

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Who would’ve thought that the best supporting character in Kingsman: The Golden Circle would have been Sir Elton John, eh? And that statement is simultaneously praiseworthy and problematic. Kidnapped by the film’s megalomaniacal villain Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), and imprisoned in a garish ’50s amusement park-cum-compound, Sir Elton is not supplied with a rich, expansive set of lines but rather a cheek-reddening assemblage of four-letter expletives and a campy demeanour true to his real life personality.

Unfortunately, many of the A-listers that would have no doubt attracted cinema goers in their droves find their screen time severely limited and overshadowed by the ostentatious Sir Elton. Channing Tatum spends the majority of the film in a cryogenic chamber and Jeff Bridges barely moves from his seat at the head of the Statesmen’s table, the American equivalent to Kingsman who assist Eggsy and co in their battle against Poppy Adams. Even Julianne Moore’s sickeningly gleeful Poppy is fairly underdeveloped; a shame really, as she throws herself so enthusiastically into the role.

Stylistically, however, Kingsman pushes on with the gore and the gadgets that made its predecessor so enjoyable. It makes for an intricately created action flick with enough finesse to keep it in the same realm as 007. But that abundance of style has its drawbacks too. The running time overshoots the two-hour mark by a good 20 minutes and when you look back on the film there are certainly a number of needless tangents that could have been left on the cutting room floor without hampering the film’s natural momentum.

“The satirical subtext of Kingsman tackles the real life issue of ‘the war on drugs’ with darkly comedic aplomb but it’s not quite enough to make us ignore the lack of meatier character development.”

But in staying true to its mantra, like the honourable Kingsman themselves, the film triumphs hugely on a cinematic level. The hectic opening scene that sees Eggsy (Taron Egerton) reignite his rivalry with his training school nemesis, Charlie, is a gut-churning flurry of fisticuffs and acrobatics that sets the bar high. The ruthlessness of Moore’s Poppy, as highlighted by several gruesome scenes early on, also equals the first instalment for bloodiness and butchery. The often one continuous shot choreography of the fight scenes retain their breathlessness and the endless armoury of gadgets and contraptions at the spies’ disposal stylishly increases the body-count as the film progresses.

However, the packed cast list, in contrast to a relatively small main cast in the first film, prevents any elements of inter-spy bonhomie from being developed. The mentor-mentee relationship between Egerton’s Eggsy and Colin Firth’s Harry Hart provided an affecting undercurrent of realism amidst the ridiculousness of the Kingsman universe. Of course, as the preliminary trailers and promo have shown, Harry returns for the sequel despite being killed off in the first film. I won’t give away the nature of his return but one can probably deduct that his revival keeps in line with the absurdity of The Golden Circle. The satirical subtext of Kingsman, that’s most emphatically presented in Polly’s evil plan, tackles the real life issue of ‘the war on drugs’ with darkly comedic aplomb but it’s not quite enough to make us ignore the lack of meatier character development.

As well, you can’t help but feel that The Golden Circle is missing that one blockbuster scene that would put it in the same league as its antecedent. Kingsman: The Secret Service had the infamous church massacre, the training school montage and still enough room to develop its compact cast. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is stuffed to the roof with imagination and surface gloss but it just lacks the same substance that made the first instalment a more well-rounded effort.

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