“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a fantastic movie. It has everything spy movies should have: quick action, hilarious physics, crazy gadgets, humor, British people beating the ever-loving shit out of bad guys whilst wearing bespoke, double-breasted suits, and an over-the-top plan to save the world from some aspect of humanity that the villain has deemed necessary to root out and destroy. Bonus points to Matthew Vaughn for casting Samuel L. Jackson as said villain.
Vaughn tried to do the same thing with the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” He tried. He really did.
In the physical parts of the movie, he did it. The action, the fighting, the hilarious physics — they’re all there. They’re all fantastic. A particularly good scene comes to mind that involves the Kingsman umbrella we saw in the first movie, a machine gun/rocket launcher briefcase, a grenade disguised as a baseball, and a giant fake doughnut — A+ stunt coordination and choreography.
In the story-related aspects of the film, they’re almost completely gone. The writing is just terrible — especially for the villain, Ms. Poppy. Her horribly delivered puns and unmotivated evilness and mania made me so uncomfortable — it’s like watching a robot controlled by sixth graders do stand-up comedy. The first film’s villain, Richmond Valentine, had a distinct set of personality traits that he exhibited continuously throughout the film. Poppy feels like she was written by multiple writers who didn’t take the time to email each other. She first displays mania, then cannibalism, then mania again, but this time coupled with the aforementioned horrifically delivered puns.
I just want to clarify here that I’m not anti-pun. I like good puns. I even like bad puns. But an essential element of telling a pun is the delivery. Apparently Julianne Moore skipped that class in acting school.
Eggsy, our protagonist, has shifted from a young man driven by avenging his mentor and saving the world in “The Secret Service,” to being motivated by his relationship with the Swedish princess Tilde. And the audience is given no other introduction to or explanation of their relationship other than the fact that Eggsy had anal sex with her at the end of the first film.
The good writing and distinct character arcs are gone. Further sending the film into the “rotten” side of the Tomatometer is a fuzzy political agenda that’s there for no reason.
The American president in the film is portrayed as a caricature of the pettier part of conservative idealism. Looking for a minor political victory, he locks up millions of Americans who — and I’ll be vague here as to not spoil the film — did a bad thing. The bad thing that they did lies against the Republican party’s platform and is forgivable among the Democratic party’s platform. It was completely unnecessary and felt tacked on as a political gimmick. If you were to cut every scene with the president and take out one line of a main character’s dialogue, the movie would still make perfect sense.
Another knock against “The Golden Circle” is the disgusting scene in which Eggsy seduces a woman in order to introduce a tracker into one of her mucus membranes. Not the one in her nose though, as the movie points out many times. It’s just a horrifying, cringe-worthy bit of writing that leaves me wondering who fell asleep at the editing table and accidentally let it in.
At the end of the day, those that enjoyed the first “Kingsman” will probably enjoy this one too. It has all the comical action scenes and distinct fight choreography that the first film had. It was good. I enjoyed parts of it. It just seemed like the cast and crew did everything else — the writing, the acting, the plot — half as well as the first one. I’m pretty disappointed, but “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is an okay sequel and it will definitely bank well for the studio. I suppose that’s all that really matters.