Kingsman: The Secret Service was released in 2014 to little fanfare.  A relatively unknown spy property with some established talent (Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson) introducing a new leading man (Taron Egerton) from the Director of Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughn) would make most Hollywood studios queasy.  But the risk paid off as Vaughn imbued Kingsman with a manic, almost cartoon like energy as Eggsy (Egerton) was recruited to a secret underground agency by Merlin (Mark Strong) and Gallahad (Firth.)  It was one of the best blockbuster surprises of that year. So, of course the honest impulse of any good executive is following such a rousing debut is, “let’s franchise this shit!”  Thus, we have Kingsman: The Golden Circle – a world expanding sequel that doubles down on the originals wacky je ne sais quoi…and then some.

Because what else do you do when you stumble on new IP?  You add approximately 13 new characters, balloon the run time to 2.5 hours and try desperately to remind audiences that the production team is totally in on the joke of it all.

The Golden Circle picks up Eggsy as the new, defacto face of the Kingsman.  After a quick reintroduction, the dapper gentleman is ambushed leaving the tailor by former King’s recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) who – with a very cool robot arm – punches Eggsy a bunch while both attempt to throw each other from a getaway car.

After said stunning sequence, Charlie is punted from the vehicle leaving only his arm.  Lucky for him that bad boy can be remote controlled and it hacks into Eggsy’s secret stuff and finds the locations of all his compatriots – which seems like a weird thing to have for a secret organization protected by a basic 5-digit password.  Soon all but Eggsy and Merlin have been blown up by very well placed rockets leaving the two of them desperate to find the culprit.

Enter the goddess Julianne Moore as Poppy – a 1950’s obsessed super villain who has monopolized the drug trade but is lonely in her weird, Happy Days/Doctor Evil layer in the jungle and craves legitimacy from the outside world.  But first she must try and take out all the secret, underground spy agencies so she may freely blackmail the U.S. President.  Also you know she’s bad cause she has a cheery dCisposition but puts people in a meat grinder sometimes and then makes them into cheeseburgers (classic bad guy giveaway.)

The remaining Kingsman are seeking any and all help so they travel to Kentucky to seek out the Statesman, which are American so…whatever.  Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and the guy from Narcos are all there and they have Colin Firth – who got shot in the face and killed in the first film – in a white, padded room, very much alive.  Together, they fight goons and globe hop.

The Golden Circle is truly a chore to recap and it increasingly becomes a chore to watch.  The film is lined with wonderful actors, so many in fact that they barely use them.  Channing Tatum is one of most physically gifted actors in the world and here, in a massive action film, has precisely 8-minutes of screen time.  He does nothing…you can’t bottle charm like this, it’s just criminal.

Vaughn’s plot increasingly drags the proceedings into the muck, losing any time for character or the irreverence that made the first so fun.  Some of the action set pieces are inspired but they are too often interrupted by hit-or-miss cgi or the next mindless story beat.  The Golden Circle is the ultimate Johnny Try Hard that 3-years ago coasted simply on actorly charm who now stands two-feet in front of you screaming, “AREN’T I CHARMING!!?!?”


Kingsman: The Golden Circle Opens in Theaters Everywhere Friday