Nearing its conclusion, Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” ends with a controversial bit of humor — a joke about anal sex — that nearly ruins the otherwise excellent movie. In the context of the rest of the film, which lovingly lampoons the classic camp of the early Bond spy films, the joke felt too jarring and out of place. Vaughn’s follow up, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” veers too far into that element of self-parody and greatly suffers for it.
“The Golden Circle” is a lot of things at once — perhaps too many. The main story follows Eggsy, solidly reprised by Taron Egerton, tracking down the group responsible for attacking and eliminating the Kingsman spy organization.
Teaming up with his American counterparts, the Statesmen, Eggsy runs into an international hostage situation being carried out by the titular drug ring and its head, played by Julianne Moore. Another — very fashionable — hat is thrown into the ring when it’s discovered that Eggsy’s mentor, Harry, is not dead.
Lost somewhere among the action and comedy are political and social commentaries, a romance and dozens of vague callbacks to the first film. Some of these elements are taken too far in the context of a spy movie, making the film border on farce at times. Seeing ridiculously tall towers of caged people inside of football stadiums really took me out of the viewing experience, and that’s nothing compared to a certain singer’s hilarious, if overdone, extended cameo.
Though the performances from the cast range from passable to great, there are so many characters involved that some very talented actors like Channing Tatum and Halle Berry are relegated to uncharacteristically forgettable supporting roles. Still, Egerton keeps a nice charm going throughout the piece as the likeable Eggsy, and I thoroughly enjoyed Julianne Moore’s unhinged performance as the villainous Poppy.
My main gripe with the film comes from the narrative, which feels like it’s just jumping from one set piece to another. The sheer number of subplots between major set pieces tugs the narrative too hard in too many directions at once, too often disrupting the flow of the film. The fact that Moore’s character is completely separate from the majority of the action only exacerbates the problem.
I didn’t come to “The Golden Circle” for its story, though — I came for Vaughn’s signature action direction. “The Golden Circle” at least matches its predecessor in that regard. Acrobatic and heavily stylized, the glorious close-quarters combat and gunplay left me continually in awe.
George Richmond’s cinematography perfectly complements the choreography with dynamic camera movements and long, sweeping takes. The action alone was enough for me to justify my movie ticket purchase.
Scatterbrained and too over the top, I hesitate to recommend “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Regardless of its narrative problems, the film is at least entertaining, and I don’t regret watching it.
Check it out for that sweet, sweet action.
Hector Valverede is a culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. He primarily writes movie reviews. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @hpvalverde.