There’s a pervading notion in the film industry that a sequel must be bigger than the first instalment. With Kingsman: The Golden Circle, director Matthew Vaughn has upped the ante on an already over-the-top style, eschewing any form of espionage for a globetrotting spy adventure, retaining the crudeness and sense of fun from its predecessor.
After saving the world from mind-controlling mobile phones, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) must confront the titular organisation after the leader, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), destroys the British spy network. Enlisting the help of their American counterparts, Statesman, our heroes battle old foes and Poppy’s collection of robotic dogs in the process, with the aim of ceasing her monopolisation of the drug trade.
It’s a film that can be encapsulated in its ambitious but overblown opening scene – a car chase that goes on for so long you wonder if they’ve been around London and back. For all the intuitive camera work and snappy editing, there’s a nagging sense of everything being elongated, resulting in a totally unjustified 141-minute running time.
Part of this is to introduce new characters – Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) is the American equivalent of Merlin, a tech support agent who’s yearning for time in the field, whilst a woefully underused Channing Tatum plays Tequila, the loose cannon from Statesman. He is rendered unfit for duty when he succumbs to the effects of Poppy’s drugs – the chain of events here is somewhat similar to Samuel L. Jackson’s killer phone epidemic.
The highly-stylised action sequences return, being escalated to reality-bending proportions –limbs swirl around like Agent Whisky’s electrified lasso, being a highlight in a new assortment of wonderfully ridiculous gadgets (portable weaponised briefcases, baseball grenades, landmine-preventing ice spray). The biting humour is sporadic, with the vulgarity of the infamous anal joke from the first film being matched by an outrageous scene involving Poppy Delevigne’s Clara, a far more thought-out and committed attempt at parodying sexual innuendos from the Bond franchise.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is of course back, being revived from a bullet to the brain in fittingly ludicrous fashion. His return to action sees a reversal of the nurturing role he adopted in his protégé’s development, leading to some comical gags over past glories and the loss of that Kingsman finesse. It’s indicative of Vaughn’s world, where subtlety and nuance is traded for bombast and silliness, but there’s a gap here that Eggsy’s (albeit not very deep) development in the first film filled.
It seems counter-intuitive to quibble about the lack of character development in a Kingsman film, but when you’re being bombarded by action sequences, even a smidgen of an emotional arc would be appreciated in a film that’s already overlong. If a third part does indeed follow, one not only hopes for a more digestible running time, but also wonders how it can be topped in terms of scale.