Kingsman: the Golden Circle review: interminable Bond-spoofing sequel will make you long for Die Another Day

Robbie Collin
Taron Egerton, left, and Mark Strong in Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Even painted in electric pink and blown up to the size of the Hollywood sign, the word ‘slog’ wouldn’t do justice to Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Just getting to the end of Matthew Vaughn’s new film feels like chewing through a 15-tog quilt. Two and a half years after the release of its Bond-spoofing forerunner, Vaughn has returned a sequel, in which the first film’s council-estate outcast turned elite secret agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) takes on an international drugs ring.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle premiere - in pictures

The original Kingsman, adapted by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from a Mark Millar comic book series, may have felt like a straggly, goading holdover from the twilight of the lads’ mags – but at least it committed to its nasty streak, and took venomous pleasure in prodding your buttons till they beeped. (I didn’t review it, but was an admirer with reservations.) This crazily overlong and tiresome follow-up, however, doesn’t seem to have the first idea what to do with itself – not least when it comes to its much-vaunted all-star cast, the majority of whom are barely even in it. 

Poppy Delevingne and Pedro Pascal

Channing Tatum, as Eggsy’s all-American ‘Statesman’ counterpart – code-named Tequila – appears in perhaps three early scenes before he’s cryogenically frozen, only to be thawed out in time for a post-finale meet-and-greet. Then there’s his superior Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who strangely never seems to leave the Statesmen’s boardroom, and technical advisor Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), who spends the film as a glorified Satnav, offering directions to the nearest satellite-surveilled baddie from behind a desktop computer. (In an extended cameo appearance, Elton John gets more to do than any of them, and better outfits to do it in.)

Even Julianne Moore as Poppy, a villainous drugs baroness holding the world to ransom with a lethal product, spends all but two of her scenes standing behind the counter of her burger-bar-themed lair. The overall impression is of a supporting cast who stopped by on a spare afternoon – and whether their roles were obligingly whittled down to sawdust to accommodate or were this flimsy to begin with, the sheer cravenness of it is embarrassing to watch.

Yet no more embarrassing than the rest of it, in which Eggsy and his handler Merlin (Mark Strong) bounce haphazardly around the globe on a series of errands – tracing the drug-running operation to its Cambodian HQ one minute, then doing their best to restore the memory of Eggsy’s former mentor, the long-serving Kingsman agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), the next. You may recall that at the end of the last film, Harry was shot through the head at point blank range, but in the interim, following the application of a magical healing gel, his medical condition has been downgraded from ‘dead’ to ‘lost memory’.

It’s understandable that bringing back the always-likeable Firth at any cost must have seemed like a wise idea. But the cost in this case is the loss of any residual scrap of interest you might have in the film’s action scenes – which are oddly thin-on-the-ground, and generally short on the trademark Vaughn vim – given death is now reversible with a squeeze of supercharged Bonjela. 

Colin Firth

Kingsman acolytes will presumably be hoping for a set-piece or two to rival the first film’s instantly notorious Baptist church massacre, but nothing here comes remotely close in terms of either energy or shock value. One seemingly interminable skit sees Eggsy roving around the Glastonbury music festival, trying to implant a fingertip-mounted tracking device inside the genitals of an enemy’s socialite girlfriend (Poppy Delevingne) – a bit of lip-licking, GCSE-level smut which the film presents as a piece of fearless taboo-smashing worthy of Sacha Baron Cohen at his wildest.

Pedro Pascal in KIngsman: the Golden Circle

The rest is mostly wall-to-wall exposition, set in a range of weirdly implausible rooms, in service of a plot that makes less sense the more everyone talks about it. (And boy oh boy, do they talk about it.) As for the Bond-homaging, a ski-resort interlude tugs its forelock towards the great 007 snow-scenes of yore, but ends with a runaway cablecar sequence that’s straight from the Die Another Day school of leaden, low-stakes CGI. Kingsman: The Golden Circle might stop short of rolling out an invisible car, but you wouldn’t put it past the next one.

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