If I were to be playing word associations, the one term I’d closely associate with Kingsman: The Secret Service would be “joy”. The sense of elation you feel through its generous 129-minute runtime is second to none as the send-ups to spy movies past and present, the dialogue bordering on pastiche, the slick production values and the genuinely likeable duo of mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and mentee Eggsy (Taron Egerton) make for a movie whose quality no one could have foreseen but all need to bow their heads down to with respect. Because, simply put, Manners Maketh Man, and when one man, director Matthew Vaughn, showcases his skills at their absolute zenith, it is but you showing your manners when you acknowledge his work.
So breaking the cycle of not directing sequels to the awesome popcorn action movies he makes – look at the sequels to X Men: First Class and Kick-Ass not matching up to their predecessors – Matthew Vaughn returns to helm Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Will it match the unabashed and unrelenting rollicking ride the first one was or will it suffer the disease of Sequelitis?
To adequately answer that question, we must start at the beginning. Eggsy and Merlin spring into action with the base of Kingsman destroyed and every agent on their books terminated. While the two of them survive due to a twist of fate, the realization dawns on them that they are in no way capable of stopping the evil, ’50s loving, drug kingpin Poppy Adams. But unbeknown to them, the elders at that adorable tailor shop left breadcrumbs (whiskey bottles, in this case) to follow in time of such peril. By drinking those drops of elixir and following the trail they leave behind, Eggsy and Merlin meet the secret service across the pond, The Statesman, and quickly form an alliance to eliminate a deadly virus permeating narcotic drugs across the world and the woman masterminding said global catastrophe.
While the plot itself is adequately James Bond to warrant a fun romp, Kingsman: The Golden Circle ties itself in knots with its admittedly cool electric lasso while trying to do both what a sequel and a universe-building cinematic exercise should. The movie doubles down on the novel aspects of its original by overdoing the crass humour, and having multiple iterations of fight scenes reminiscent of that one sequence from The Pseudo Westboro Baptist Church and a slew of overpowered gadgets that skirt the line of silliness, but the cruel thing about novelty is that, like the element of surprise the original carried with it, it only works once.
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