While I enjoyed the first Kingsman film, some of its more ridiculous elements never sat right with me. Exploding heads are fun, sure, but the movie’s constant change of tone made some things work less well than others. Thankfully, writer/director Matthew Vaughn has come much closer to perfecting that characteristic blend of 1960s spy film and 2010s action film.
Performances across the board are strong, with Egerton proving he’s the real deal yet again. Firth and Strong have worked together on at least a half-dozen movies, and their easy chemistry is evident as always. Julianne Moore proves to be a better villain than Samuel L. Jackson, although she’s given a bit less to do. Ditto for Bridges and Tatum, who turn in typically strong work but are underutilized. It’s nice to see Berry in another spy movie, albeit as more of a Moneypenny. Pascal does some great work here, providing another feather in his cap after recent breakout roles on “Game of Thrones” and “Narcos.” And finally, Elton John practically steals the movie, especially in the third act.
Production design and costumes look great, just like the first film but a bit more polished. Visual effects are crap — also just like in the first film — but that’s all part of the cheesy fun. The score was an unsung hero of The Secret Service, and it’s just as good here. There are some amusing cameos from character actors we’ve all seen in various movies, and all of them seem to be having a good time.
As far as problems go, Vaughn still doesn’t know how long to make his movies. He has a great track record — I’ve seen all of his movies except Stardust, and I’ve enjoyed them all, with Layer Cake being a personal favorite — but The Golden Circle is at least 20 minutes too long. A big part of the problem is the first act of the movie, which provides some essential context and backstory for the rest of the film, but unfortunately takes too long to really get going. It’s similar to the problem that John Wick: Chapter 2 faced earlier this year.
Stakes are another issue; without spoiling anything (the marketing took care of that for me), we get the return of a character who we thought had previously died. While the explanation of his survival isn’t as lame as I expected it to be, it does make it hard to really invest in the characters when they’re ever in peril. That includes one who, in an admittedly poignant scene, bites the dust here.
Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and by the time the credits roll around, you’ll be catching your breath from the sheer insane fun of this movie. In a summer that was tragically bereft of fun popcorn fare, Kingsman: The Golden Circle arrives in September when we should’ve gotten it in May. It won’t win any Oscars, but as far as bang for your buck is concerned, it’s hard not to recommend Kingsman.