REVIEW: Stacked cast, flashy action make ‘Kingsman’ sequel enjoyable, forgettable fun

Kingsman%3A+The+Golden+Circle+movie+poster

Kingsman: The Golden Circle movie poster

Benjamin VanHoose

Just when you thought you’d seen all spy movies had to offer, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” went and did that.

The classiest, most dapper spies are back in this follow-up to the 2015 original, and with them comes the same level of ridiculously zany action. An all-star cast and a creatively conventional screenplay align for a fun — yet slightly forgettable — time at the movies.

Set not too long after the end of predecessor “The Secret Service,” the British spy organization is wiped out by an underground drug kingpin, forcing hero Eggsy to enlist help from their American counterparts, the Statesman.

These cowboy gunslingers, each code-named after a different type of liquor, are led by Jeff Bridges and include a hilariously country Channing Tatum (who has less screentime than the film’s marketing suggests), and a brainy Halle Berry.

The movie belongs to one scene-stealer in particular, Julianne Moore, who plays the deliciously devilish baddie. Villain roles aren’t common for the Oscar winner, and from the second her character is introduced, it’s clear she’s having the most fun.

From the way she dishes out sadistic orders to her henchman with a warm smile, to her commitment for world domination, Moore adds a helping of dark humor that audiences can’t help but love to hate.

Since her performance is so entertaining, we’ll forgive the fact that having Moore, Bridges and a bowling alley in the same movie but no “Big Lebowski” reunion for them is a missed opportunity. (Moore does get a juicy callback to her 2001 “Hannibal” role early in the movie — you’ll know it when you cringe at it!)

Here, director Matthew Vaughn is at his best, only allowing his bloody, irreverent sensibilities come to the forefront when suits the material. This restraint prevents any self-indulgent or needlessly graphic sequences (i.e. the church massacre from the first “Kingsman”) from upsetting a mainstream audience.

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’

  • Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material
  • Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Mark Strong
  • Directed by Matthew Vaughn
  • Running Time: 2 hours 21 minutes
  • You’ll Like This If You Liked: “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Kick-Ass,” “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” “Wanted,” “Spectre”

Don’t be fooled, though; there is still plenty of obscene violence. This time around, however, the punches, gunshots and explosions seem more lighthearted and whimsical. I don’t know how to say a movie with robot attack dogs is “toned down,” except that it just somehow is.

Sure, characters are still dying awful, brutal deaths, but the action is pulled off with such glossily stylized swagger that it fits right in with the comical tone of the film.

Although, “The Golden Circle” is a tad excessive in its running time, scattered throughout are set pieces that supply much needed jolts of jaw-dropping spectacle when the quiet sentimental scenes between begin to grate.

Nothing is lazy about the script. If anything, Vaughn is attempting to squeeze too much content into one place. What the screenplay does best is making each increasingly absurd comic book contrivance seem realistic.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the writing makes it easy to jump onboard with no prior knowledge. Flashbacks are peppered in at logical moments in the story, recapping for newcomers and making exposition more palatable.

Of course, a “Kingsman” movie wouldn’t be complete without a controversial sex scene. Last time around it was at the backend of the film when a princess (and complete stranger) rewarded the main character with anal sex for saving the world — something referenced and joked about in the sequel.

The part stirring up backlash this time involves a tracking device that can only be installed via penetration. It’s a squeamish scene played for laughs that raises questions of consent, forcing conflicted viewers to wonder if its inclusion is even necessary.

So much is thrown at the audience the rest of the movie, though, that the sequence is forgotten in the mix — much like a lot of other scenes throughout.

Where the first “Kingsman” dealt with messages of climate change and consumerism, “Golden Circle” deals with the heroin epidemic and how society goes about punishing and treating drug addicts.

Moore’s character, who traffics marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other narcotics around the globe, contaminates her customers with a lethal poison so as to leverage the antidote for the legalization of all drugs to take her business public.

It’s a worthwhile subplot that tackles serious themes relevant to today’s audiences, but the issue isn’t able to be handled with the necessary attention amid the stylized flair it is wrapped inside.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” may not reinvent the spy movie, but it makes the most out of the genre confines — and contains one of the best uses of a celebrity cameo ever — for a laugh-out-loud adventure flick, perfect for a rainy day rewatch when you can skip to the action scenes.

Just promise not to fast forward over Julianne Moore’s parts, or else you’ll have a film not worth watching at all.

Grade: B

Benjamin VanHoose is the entertainment reviewer, contact him at [email protected]