Sky Cinema features a new Premiere every single day, offering some of the biggest films to watch exclusively before they hit other platforms. This week’s featured Premiere is the explosive action sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprise hit for Matthew Vaughn, the British director behind Layer Cake, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Starring Taron Egerton as a troubled youth who’s recruited by a shadowy spy organisation, the film ended up being a box office and a critical success, with its blending of Bond style and ridiculous, John Woo-esque action hitting a niche the film-going public didn’t know needed hitting.
For its inevitable sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Vaughn and his screenwriting partner Jane Goldman sadly lose a lot of what made the first film so interesting; ripping out the heart and soul and adding too much bloat to what should be a simple premise.
The Golden Circle starts off with a bang as Egerton’s Eggsy (who I’m just realising is probably named after Egerton himself) being attacked by the cyborg version of his upper-class rival from the Kingsman academy in a gripping taxi chase through London. If you’re wondering “didn’t that character die at the end of the first film” then you’re right - and his return is indicative of a lot of the problems The Golden Circle has.
From there, Eggsy links up with Mark Strong’s Merlin (essentially the Q to Eggsy’s Bond), who continues his streak of being the best part of a mediocre film. The plot quick offers them an insurmountable task after the entire Kingsman agency gets killed off in the first 10 minutes. This includes Sophie Cookson’s Roxy, a character that the first film spent a good amount of time developing and whose exit from the story feels like a cheap attempt at pathos. Here, it feels like she’s hurried out of the way so the film can get all the lads back together, with Colin Firth’s return the fold only cementing this.
Much has been made about Firth’s return in The Golden Circle after being shot in the head in the last one and the explanation for it is as stupid as you’d expect. Turns out, the Statesmen (the US equivalent of the Kingsman) has developed a technology that can stop a bullet doing any more damage to the head and remove it, thereby bringing the victim back to life. It’s sort of a plastic ice pack thing that wraps around the head. That’s seriously it.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle establishes that death can essentially be reversed in this universe, so for the rest of the film any threat to the characters’ lives is rendered completely void. You can’t care about the characters if their deaths mean nothing.
It would appear that Colin Firth agrees with me, as he phones in a performance from so far away he might as well be in space. There’s none of the charm present from the first Kingsman film and Firth’s character is actually way more interesting dead than alive, acting as a lost mentor Eggsy has to struggle without. If this is the road they’d have gone down, it would have been far more affecting. As it is, it just kills off the development and motivation for the main character, which isn’t great when you’re expected to sit with them for 141 minutes.
After the killing off of Roxy for the pointless return of Colin Firth, it falls Julianne Moore’s shoulders to be the sole female character in the film. Luckily, Moore is an actress who elevates anything she’s in and her 50’s Americana-obsessed drug lord villain with a tendency to mince her henchman and turn them into burgers provides a decent-enough foil.
The Golden Circle is packed a premier acting talent, with Julian Moore joining Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Michael Gambon and a woefully underused Jeff Bridges to ensure that the film spends every bit of its $100 million-plus budget. On the lower end of the scale, Elton John has a painfully protracted role and Keith Allen shows up unwelcomed like it's the World In Motion video all over again.
Action-wise, The Golden Circle manages to ramp it up beyond 11, providing some visually wonderful feats of martial-arts mastery and gun-fu chaos. The issue here is that the Kingsman and the Statesmen are all far too good at their jobs, so the fights have very little stakes in a Power Rangers sort of way. Early on, the film teases a creepy-looking ‘50s diner robot for the main characters to fight….which they dispatch of in about 20 seconds.
These crazy set-pieces give the film a “so bonkers it's kind of good” vibe, or at least they would if it wasn’t so needlessly long. The Golden Circle lulls heavily in the middle and changes what should be a fun-if-troubled action knockabout into a drawn-out, dull experience. Action is a genre that should be snappy, but sadly the extended budget has meant there’s little room for restraint in this sequel.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle was a huge success in cinemas, with Vaughn confirming the production of both Kingsman 3 and 4. With Mark Strong’s character apparently returning in 3 after his surprisingly emotional death in The Golden Circle, it would appear that these films are set to get bigger, more bloated and less interesting.
That said, if you can ignore the eternal length and the staggeringly tone-deaf sequence at Glastonbury Festival (I won’t spoil it), Kingsman: The Golden Circle is reasonably fun as a dumb Friday night film. Watch it now on Sky Cinema Premiere and NOW TV Sky Cinema.