That the first Kingsman movie was a success was a refreshing surprise and, given its relatively modest $81 million budget, its gross of over $400 million means a sequel was inevitable.
In those circumstances, the usual thing is to up the ante, up the budgets and make everything that bit, well, bigger. So it is off to the US of A and Italy and South America and, of course, the UK for the sequel.
Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy as does Mark Strong, Hanna Alstrom, the Swedish Princess from the first Kingsman, Edward Halcroft, Charlie from the first one, and, as you’ll have seen from the trailers, Colin Firth.
Let’s address the elephant in the room to begin with. Yes, despite being shot in the head, sorry, eye, Colin Firth survived and is back. The why, who and how are explained but it’s pure hokum and exists simply to bring back a character they’d killed off so don’t worry about it.
This time the Kingsman are up against a, not so evil, evil drug lord Poppy, Julianne Moore (Still Alice, The Hunger Games), who is in control of all the worlds drugs and wants recognition for her business skills.
So, she holds the world to ransom by putting a serum in her drugs that will eventually kill people and only she has the antidote.
She then begins bargaining with the US president, Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, I, Robot), but taking out the British secret, secret service, Kingsman…ah…well we’ll gloss over that.
The remaining Kingsman, Egerton and Strong, head to Kentucky to find their American counterparts the Statesmen, headed by Jeff Bridges (Iron Man, Tron).
It appears everyone in Kingsman has an equal and opposite number in Statesmen. Mark Strong is Halle Berry (X-Men, Die Another Day) and Egerton is either Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, The Hateful Eight) or Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau).
Tatum only appears in three or four scenes and so it is Pascal who joins the merry gang as they attempt to find Moore and the antidote to the drugs, whilst Greenwood sees it as his chance to rid the country of the drug problem, no drug-users, no drug pushers.
Both writers and director from the first Kingsman movie, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, remained for this sequel and, whilst the budget has not been released at time of writing, I can bet it was significantly increased.
First, the bad: The film is far too long at over two hours and twenty minutes, a good third could have been lopped without losing much.
That Tatum, Bridges and Moore are in the film are token gestures given they only have a handful of scenes and Moore never leaves her desk or comes out from behind her diner counter (she’s obsessed with fifties Americana and so her ‘lair’ reflects this).
She is reduced to a whistling (will make sense when you see it), hard done by, whoa is me type character with all the menace of a fifties burger and shake.
Everything that made the first film so good, the action sequences, the cheeky humour, the banter, the fact that Eggsy was uncouth and here was Firth trying to ‘my fair lady’ him to upper class, have gone.
Well, perhaps not the action sequences, there’s a few set pieces which look like they could be great. The opening taxi chase, the final fight scene etc, all might be wonderful and had I seen them I’d be able to tell you.
However, they are roundly (pun intended) spoiled by Vaughn putting the camera on a crane, spinning it as fast he can and then clicking record.
On the small screen this might not be so bad, on an IMAX screen it was verging on vomit inducing.
The banter and comradery between Strong, Firth and Eggerton has gone. They all appear to be keeping each other at arm’s length. They are all glib, blunt and hardly bat an eye lid when one makes a grand gesture…I’ll stop there.
I do want to mention the gadgets, you remember in the first one as Firth took Eggerton through it all, the grenades, the umbrellas, the knives in shoes, “That is sick”.
Well now we have an enhanced taxi that, seriously – watch them side-by-side, is taken straight from the Despicable Me films and robot dogs that are taken straight from Wallace and Gromit…
It comes to something when, in a movie filled with a-listers and a running time of over two-hours, I get to write about the good bit and say this: the best thing in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Elton John.
I kid you not. He absolutely…I’ve got to say it, he rocks. He is funnier than any of the other characters and encapsulates so much of what we loved about the first film. He swears a lot, he’s cheeky, he even kicks ass – which is funny as anything.
It’s an extended cameo without which the film would have been so much worse off without. People actually walked out before the end of this showing, I haven’t seen that happen in quite some time.
There will, inevitably, be a third film, it’s setup at the end. I just hope that whoever’s in charge can show a modicum of restraint and not just go supersize because they could.