175. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

★★★

Kingsman packs in as much whizz-bang, deliciously stylish action as its predecessor but not as much charm or proper timing. We’re introduced to too many new characters who aren’t given their proper due, and the movie drags on a bit too long when it could have ended comfortably 20 or 30 minutes sooner. Still, all good whiskeys and scotches have a bit of a nasty aftertaste, and Kingsman triumphs over its flaws with its flavorful zest for cinematic showmanship.

We pick up not too long after the first Kingsman left off. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark strong) are still looking dapper in their custom-tailored clothing, and Harry  (Colin Firth)is still presumed dead. Tragedy strikes after a missile attack, orchestrated by drug queenpin Poppy (Julianne Moore,) takes out all the Kingsmen besides Eggsy and Harry. They team up with the Statesmen, a slick, group of westerly folk who agree to help their friends across the pond take down this new threat.

The only one of the Statesmen who gets an intricate, detailed backstory is Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), while Tequila (Channing Tatum), Champ (Jeff Bridges) and Ginger (Halle Berry) are often forgotten despite being rich for interesting material. Moore is a delight as Poppy, the relentlessly cheery cartel head, although we wish we knew a little bit more about what lead her to being her. And when Harry does make his return, it lacks proper pomp and circumstance, and that’s taking into account the “events” of why he’s still even alive.

Maybe it’s because the first Kingsman was an origin story, which are very satisfying on a storytelling level. It’s a very pleasing experience to watch an outsider join and adapt to a new club or society like Eggsy did in the first, and its hard to keep that spark and voice when you’ve changed your storytelling structure so that the outsider is now one who belongs. This doesn’t make Kingsman: The Golden Circle bad by any means, it just means that its some of the lightning from the first one has slipped through the cracks of the bottle.

It is still a marvelously entertaining ride, with action sequences impeccably executed, and also takes several risks in terms of plot that play off. Director Matthew Vaughn has a keen appreciation for movement and the importance of proper camera work in bringing these scenes to life. Some of the action sequences are so well timed, particularly the very final battle, that The Golden Circle will remind you of “Baby Driver” for being so in-synch. It will also remind you a bit of “Logan Lucky,” too, but only because it features Channing Tatum and John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

But most importantly, The Golden Circle will remind you of the first Kingsman, how it felt so fresh and invigorating and boldly unique that it was an unexpected but totally welcome shot straight out of left field. The Golden Circle isn’t as good as its suave, flash bang predecessor, but its good enough to earn a seat at the table.

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