The Kingsman are back. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now established Kingsman Agent Galahad, and has a stable relationship with a certain royal Swede. But when simultaneous attacks wipe out all Kingsman except Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), they must turn to the Statesman for assistance – America’s Kingsman equivalent, led by Champ (Jeff Bridges). Meanwhile, drug kingpin Poppy (Julianne Moore) has created a monopoly of the world’s drug trade and is looking to legitimise her business. Writer/director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman approach their villains in a curious way, taking real world social issues and then imagining a Bond villain’s solution to them. In the first film, Richmond Valentine’s evil plan related to global warming. This time, the deliriously evil Poppy is motivated by the war on drugs in the United States. But as with Valentine’s plan, it makes no sense – it just provides an excuse for our heroes to travel the world, killing henchmen.
The first Kingsman was a surprise hit in 2015, both commercially and critically. For this reason, it’s disappointing that Vaughn has well and truly dropped the ball here. The same well-dressed spies are dispensing bad guys with the same manic, hyper-stylized ultraviolence, but it’s simply not as enjoyable the second-time around. There are subplots aplenty, but almost all of them are pointless. Eggsy’s relationship issues add nothing but running time, and Colin Firth’s return as Galahad Sr. is blunted by short-lived (and again, pointless) amnesia. However, where the film truly goes off the rails is during a side mission to Glastonbury Festival. Eggsy and a Statesman agent must locate the girlfriend of an enemy agent and tag her with a tracking device by fingering her.
Conducting espionage through sexual assault should have been left in the 1970s, along with flares and the Nixon administration. The film eventually recovers to deliver an enjoyable climactic fight sequence, but it’s not enough. Although Moore puts on a good performance, her character Poppy seems to belong in a different film. Channing Tatum appears for less than 5 minutes, and if you blink, you’ll miss Jeff Bridges.
One point of genuine enjoyment is Elton John playing himself as Poppy’s captive. It’s as though he had the first film in mind, coming to this one with the same sense of fun and abandon. Pity the rest of the film doesn’t follow his lead. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is over-stuffed and unfocused.