What a massive, royal disappointment. One of the absolute best movies of 2014 was "Kingsman: The Secret Service" (read the review here). And though all of the same ingredients seem to be in play for the sequel, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle", this new film is served up stale, leaving a very bitter aftertaste.
The fun is gone, replaced with a sense that the filmmaker - Matthew Vaughn, who directed the first film as well - was trying to adhere to the "bigger is better" mentality. It doesn't work. The zany, spirited and downright refreshing appeal of the first film has all but vanished, apparent from the very first scene of this sequel: A bloated, messy car-chase sequence that looks entirely shot in front of a green-screen. The film then abandons the James-Bond-esque spy-comedy approach and heads stateside, Americanizing a film that quite frankly worked much better overseas. What to do when you don't know what to do for a sequel? Let's put the characters in a new environment! It wouldn't be a surprise if "Kingsman 3" or "Kingsman 4" had our heroes traveling to New York, or into space! Why not? Ugh.
The once-green Kingsman agent known as Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his trusted friend Merlin (Mark Strong) must seek help from their United States equivalent known as the Statesman (see what they did there?), after the Kingsman are all but decimated by the evil Poppy (Julianne Moore, whose never been less appealing). The Statesman - instead of all being named after the Knights of the Round Table and running a suit-shop like their English counterparts - run a distillery and are all named after alcoholic drinks. There is their leader Champ, short for Champagne (Jeff Bridges), a Burt Reynolds look-alike known as Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Ginger (Halle Berry) and Tequila (Channing Tatum). All of them taste watered-down and flavorless, stirring nothing new into this lukewarm concoction.
There may not have been another film franchise to root for so desperately, no movie that one would want to succeed more than "The Kingsman" franchise. But this sequel offers up nothing new, and not only is it not good, it's pretty terrible. It's way too long - over 140 minutes - and horribly uneven, with long stretches of characters just talking without taking action. There is a laughably bad plot involving an amnesia-stricken Colin Firth - feared dead after being shot in the eye during the first movie - who is now a weird child-man obsessed with butterflies. And don't get me started on Elton John's role in this film, which is more than a cameo and most of the time, painfully unfunny.
Hope was held out that something clever would happen, that there would be a winking turn of events at some point. It never came. What had been a highly-anticipated follow-up - teetering somewhere between the worlds of James Bond and Austin Powers - "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" instead can sadly be lumped into the unflattering category of soul-crushingly disappointing sequels.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy. Run Time: 2 hours 21 minutes.
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn ("Kingsman: The Secret Service," "X-Men: First Class," "Kick-Ass").