'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' movie review: An unholy hybrid of the 'Austin Powers' & 'James Bond'
The action-comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" (opening in theaters Sept. 22) suffers from worse versions of every problem that plagued the first movie - a cartoonish antagonist, a bloated running time and a needlessly meandering plot.
In short: After a secret enemy all but wipes out the Kingsmen, the last two British agents (Taron Egerton and Mark Strong) seek help from their American counterparts against an enemy threatening the world. Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Colin Firth and Channing Tatum also star.
"The Golden Circle" is - at its strongest moments - mildly entertaining and emotionally inert. The unconvincing CGI reduces all the set pieces to look like silly, nonthreatening cartoons. The action is so impossibly over-the-top that the fight sequences - which technically impressive from a choreography perspective - all look the same. Eventually, it feels like watching the same insane fight sequence over and over - which gets boring.
Both "Kingsmen" flicks suffer weak, idiosyncratic antagonists who are little more than nontraditional supervillain psychopaths. Moore is little more than an evil drug kingpin rocking an ear-to-ear smile. It would hardly be a surprise if some behind-the-scenes featurette revealed Moore filmed all her scenes over the course of an extended weekend and never met any of her major co-stars in person. Her character has no depth and her absurd plan doesn't make any sense - it's merely a weak plot device to lazily elevate her to global threat.
At this point, it should come as no surprise that Colin Firth - a main character killed in the first film - is back ... which is a problem. The novelty of the first "Kingsmen" wasn't just its "R" rating - the film developed the relationship between the young Eggsy and his father-figure/mentor Harry, then had the audacity to shoot Harry in the head. Harry's violent death was significant because of what it meant to the plot and to Eggsy as a character.
"The Golden Circle" unwinds all of that pathos by magically resurrecting Harry (by way of a tortuously contrived explanation of Harry's unlikely survival) and - what worse - saddles Firth with a tedious b-plot. And bringing Harry back from the dead does this movie no favor - if anything, the movie stalls out whenever it has to address the Harry's recovery. Firth's character has more emotional impact to the story as a dead mentor than he does as a resurrected hero.
"Kingsmen" apologists will cite the "charm" of a film that clearly does not take itself or its spy/action genre seriously. That would be fine, except this franchise is aggressively tasteless: cartoonishly violent deaths and weirdly brazen sex acts. An entire sequence - one that's much longer than it needs to be - has two main characters competing to see which one of them can implant a tracking device on a female target - a device that must be implanted on a mucus membrane. And the mouth isn't good enough. This is par of the course for a franchise where its first movie basically ends on an anal sex gag.
Final verdict: "The Golden Circle" is an excessively crass, less clever and lobotomized "Bourne"/"007" wannabe.
"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" opens in theaters Sept. 22. This action-spy adventure is has a running time of 141 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.