Kingsman: The Golden Circle September 18, 2017 KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (UK | USA/16/141mins) Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum. THE PLOT: The Kingsman gentleman spy agency comes under attack from an external force, which destroys their key sites. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and reliable right hand Merlin (Mark Strong) find themselves homeless. A clue about where to go next leads them to Kentucky, where they discover their American counterparts, Statesman, under the cover of a whiskey-making business. Run by Champagne (Jeff Bridges) along with cowboy Tequila (Channing Tatum), lasso-cracking Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and tech expert Ginger (Halle Berry), they all uncover a plot involving drug cartel The Golden Circle. Run by the self-obsessed Poppy (Julianne Moore), who has her own theme park in Asia, she’s intent on world domination. Meanwhile, an old friend returns from an apparent death… THE VERDICT: ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ was a hoot. An irreverent spy film, it gleefully paraded its OTT-ness like a badge of honour (‘give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day’) – and then some. A sequel was not only inevitable, but welcome. ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ gets down to business straight away, with Eggsy involved in a break-neck fight in – and out – of a London cab. Set your disbelief to stun, as returning director Matthew Vaughn sets out to top the first film. He almost succeeds. Once again based on the comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, there’s an American twist this time around. The introduction of the Statesman characters is well-handled, in that they’re equally as batty as their English counterparts. Culture clash moments mostly involve throwaway gags, with the potential for more put on ice with a particular character. The script is a little too busy to take time to explore the contrasting spying styles of the two agencies. There’s a lot of plot to get through before we even arrive at Poppy’s colourful lair. Some judicious pruning wouldn’t have gone amiss here. It also seems as if the novelty of the first film has worn off, with its twisted take on My Fair Lady no longer applicable. Eggsy is less well-defined, with a sub-plot involving his Swedish Princess substituted to keep his character development moving. Thank heavens then for the return of Colin Firth’s Harry, who is a joy to watch and is easily the best thing about the film. Moore’s super-villainess is good fun too, happily feeding a potential henchman to a meat grinder early on. Head first of course, dear boy. She gets the tone of the character just right. The globe-hopping action is well-staged, from shoot-outs to lasso fights to punch-ups with Poppy’s bionic henchman. It’s all jolly good fun, done in the best possible taste (or not). There’s also a very funny appearance by a certain flamboyant musician – less of a cameo and more of a supporting part. While it does have some flaws and doesn’t quite impress the way its predecessor did, ‘The Golden Circle’ still has a lot to recommend it. It goes for gold, but turns up silver which is still a decent result. RATING: 3 / 5 Review by Gareth O’Connor emerb “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a huge hit and raked in over $400 million dollars so I guess a sequel was inevitable. “Kingsman: Golden Circle” sees Matthew Vaughan return as director to the hit 2015 spy movie and he reteams Taron Egerton with Colin Firth while also bringing in a number of new faces: Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. The movie continues the spirit of the original – an imaginatively entertaining romp blending plenty of eye-popping action, cheeky humour but not much in the way of a plausible, coherent plot. It’s been a year since the lower-class but stylish and highly trained in espionage, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), saved the world, became involved with a Swedish princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) and joined the ranks of the Kingsman intelligence agency. His mentor, spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) appeared to have been killed off and assigned Eggsy a new role as one of the UK’s top secret agents at the end of the first outing. Now there is a new threat from a mysterious narcotics empire – The Golden Circle. After a massive missile attack from this mysterious network which decimates the Kingsman itself, he and Merlin (Mark Strong) travel to Kentucky to seek help from their American cousins at Statesmen (Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal). The Statesmen use a large whiskey distillery as their cover, one that keeps them both wealthy and well supplied with alcohol. It’s not long before Harry is back on the scene. He has been an honoured guest of the Statesman for years but is in a bad way and suffering complete memory loss…. that is until Eggsy sorts it out and eases his former mentor back into the spy game. Together, they must all work to fight the devious plot hatched by the Golden Circle and its malevolent arch-villain, Poppy (Julianne Moore). Poppy is the cheery, perky and sickly sweet but deadly dangerous boss of the Golden Circle and she presides over an elaborate theme-park-like compound called “Poppy Land” where she has imprisoned none other than Sir Elton John! Poppy wants money and to end the stigma around drug use so she has blackmailed the US President into legalizing drugs by releasing a deadly toxin into recreational drugs worldwide. The survival of the world population hangs in the balance and it’s up to the Kingsman to stop this maniacal woman before it’s too late. “Kingsman: Golden Circle” is ambitious and Vaughn certainly doesn’t disappoint with the action. There are numerous high-energy sequences and from an opening motor chase through the streets of London to the climactic assault on the villains’ secret base, we are certainly kept on the edge of our seats. Yet there’s the looming feeling of overkill, we’ve seen it before. What made the first movie such a success was that it was a surprise. We weren’t expecting such an inventive, fresh, bold, humorous spy movie send up but that’s all absent here. The plot is wacky in the extreme and Vaughn introduces numerous outlandish elements: a giant mincing machine, killer robot dogs, even Elton John shows up. We can’t say the film doesn’t try but the question is – does it give the impression that it’s becoming formulaic and trying too hard? The film has a running time of 141 minutes and that’s a big drawback, the story just doesn’t know when to quit while it’s ahead and it’s not good when you find yourself checking your watch. The film is fun, energetic, bonkers and easy to watch yet you’re not likely to remember it for long afterwards.