No gold standard return for spies
With its brilliantly bonkers set pieces, respectful tinkering with spy movie tropes and tongue planted firmly in its cheek, the first Kingsman film took critics and audiences by surprise three years ago to become a genuine breakout hit.
A sequel, therefore, was inevitable and in an attempt to freshen things up, returning director Matthew Vaughn transports young hero spy Eggsy (Taron Egerton) Stateside to work with his American counterparts to foil the plans of the villainous Poppy (Julianne Moore).
Also back on board is writer Jane Goldman, again adapting the story from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ The Secret Service comic book, and, while the plot is still pretty insane, it lacks the freshness and originality of the first adventure.
Egerton does a capable job of stepping up from apprentice spy to full-blown hero but it’s no surprise that the filmmakers have chosen to bring back Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, who seemingly perished in battle last time around.
How Harry is resurrected won’t be revealed here but despite the fact I was hoping for more interesting and dynamic reasoning behind his unlikely rebirth, Firth again outshines his younger co-star in a charismatic part he was born to play.
The cast is swelled quite dramatically from its predecessor and the journey to the US allows some familiar big names from Hollywood to get in on the Brit-joke. Making the best new impression of all is Moore, perfectly described by Vaughn in the pre-release hype as “Martha Stewart on crack”.
Channing Tatum (Tequila) and Jeff Bridges (Champ) make appearances that are more fleeting than you’d expect but both bring smiles to faces and, along with Halle Berry’s tech support Ginger, supply a touch of class and glamour.
The Golden Circle can’t match the first film’s memorable cameo count, although you’ll never look at Sir Elton John the same way again with the musical icon showing David Beckham how this acting lark is really done.
There’s no denying the fact much fun will be had sitting through Eggsy’s second mission and Vaughn could still show some of the business’ biggest name action directors a thing or two about shooting inventive set pieces – witness the opening taxi-set brawl.
But too often it feels like the director and his team are trying too hard to deliver a “bigger and better” sequel by throwing loads of things at the screen and hoping at least most of it sticks.
Maybe they are just experiencing the difficult ‘middle film syndrome’ that all too often hinders sequels and will put things right with the already announced Kingsman 3.
I hope so as it would be a real shame if this inspired, unconventional tribute to the spy genre was allowed to peter out quicker than George Lazenby’s stint as James Bond.