If you loved the first Kingsman, you’re going to lose it when you see this one. Kingsman: The Golden Circle takes all of what we knew in the first film’s universe and expands upon it in a way that is still surprising, in ways both good and bad. If you’re in it for the spy humor, you’re in luck. But if you were turned off by that last scene in the previous film, you might have some feelings about a scene in the sequel.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is immediately thrust into action by an attacker with a bionic arm. He and Merlin (Mark Strong) are still close after the events of the last film, and Eggsy has even managed to make things work with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). Things are going so well that he now must go to a dinner party to meet her parents, the King and Queen of Sweden.
As Eggsy is navigating balancing his normal life with his job, a drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) is busy working on her plans for world domination. She is one of the richest people in the world, but no one knows who she is (she fled the U.S. and established a compound in the jungle). Honestly, compound isn’t the right word: it’s basically a nostalgia theme park, with the theme of herself. Poppy has created what is essentially Fallout‘s Nuka-World, complete with a movie theater, diner, and parlor. She also kidnapped Elton John.
Eggsy’s attacker works for Poppy. They have determined that they need to kill of the Kingsmen, and the results of that initiate a “Doomsday Protocol” that takes Eggsy and Merlin to the U.S. of A. There, they meet the Statesman, who sell whiskey instead of tailored suits. My favorite visual gag of the film is Halle Berry in her Kentucky best, dressed like Colonel Sanders. It’s not on the level of Sam Jackson’s McDonalds scene, but it’s such a small gag that leads me to wonder if the inevitable third film will have another reference to America’s love of fast food joints.
As the Statesmen and Kingsmen discuss what brought them together, Poppy appears on every television screen to reveal her master plan: she has poisoned all her narcotic. Her rationale is that she, the wealthiest woman, has the power to kill millions, but they will only receive an antidote once the world leaders agree to abolish drug laws. Basically, she’s willing to kill off her consumers to not get caught by the law. One would think that the President of the United States would consider his options, but he too has an ulterior motive: he wants all drug users to die. I would say that this is an outlandish and totally unbelievable scenario, but it’s 2017 and everything is terrible, so why not.
Listen, I love absurd comedy, and I love action movies. This Kingsman has what I perceived to be less violence and blood than the first film. But because it is playing off the biggest Bond tropes, it inevitably inserts a gratuitous sex scene. This one ratchets the final scene from the last film up another notch, in which Eggsy must put a tracking device in someone’s body, and we get what is probably the best example of scopophilia we’ll have this year. This, combined with the less-than-satisfactory concluding message puts my enjoyment, and likely others, in the “it was good except for _” column than it intends.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t meant to be some great achievement; it knows where it belongs and maximizes on its goal of satisfying fans who want more of the same. There’s nothing wrong with creating a formula and embellishing on it. It’s counting on the leads to carry the film, which they do well, but some of the ideas come off less as a play on a trope and more of an exploration of how far that trope can really be stretched. It’s a very fun film, and there are a few great, funny surprises.