2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was fun mostly because of its self-awareness. Following a plot laid down by Mark Millar in a series of comic books penned two years earlier, the rags-to-riches teen spy flick admirably dodged everything cringe-worthy associated with films that describe themselves as “rags-to-riches teen spy flicks.”
It’s as if the movie had, as the backbone of its sometimes-heavy-handed and violence-laden plot, only one commandment: be fun. That’s why it pulled in the success that it did. The plot is kind of simple: a street-savvy but out-of-his-element kid is pulled into the sleek world of espionage in what is essentially a Cinderella story, but with guns and British slang that I’m sure went over many North American’s heads.
Silly though it was, the first installment in the Kingsman franchise was refreshing in its decision not to take itself as seriously as many other “action movies” have, due to some misplaced sense of loyalty to their genre. Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle follows hot on its predecessor’s heels, adding more silliness to the narrative.
Not that many are expecting this kind of movie to present them with narratives they’ve seen before, or be a marvel of writing or directing, but if more character development is what you’re after, there’s not as much of it in The Golden Circle as one would hope.
Tasked with saving the world after their spy agency headquarters are destroyed, and their colleagues killed in the blast, Eggsy, the newly-promoted (played by Taron Egerton), and Merlin, an older spy and kind of mentor to Eggsy, go incommunicado, and hop over the Pond to the U.S. to connect with their American counterparts in a sequence involving a Sherlock Holmesian series of a-ha moments which, if the premise of the film itself demanded more serious consideration, would be laughable at best.
But in The Golden Circle, it kind of works.
Despite a bevy of plot elements and jokes which land flat, like the alcohol-themed names endemic to the U.S. spy agency, which affords us the opportunity to seriously describe the film using phrases like “agent Tequila’s character had little to zero screen time for some good 20 minutes after his introduction, prompting a slight moment of confusion when the watcher realizes his relevance to the plot post-recovery.”
For all its clearly self-aware buffoonery, the plot of the movie follows in the vein of a spate of action flicks which, for the most part, manage to avoid grandstanding and deliver fun, exciting, self-contained plots, like Baby Driver.
There is, however, one element of The Golden Circle which seemed needlessly excessive: its preoccupation with profanity and sexually explicit content.
Now, I’m not a prude, but I do expect plot or stylistic elements in a film to accomplish something. Sure, this isn’t Citizen Kane by a long shot, but the sparse-yet-forceful use of profanity, and inclusion of female nudity throughout the film, seemed entirely unnecessary. It adds nothing to the plot which the surrounding scenes had not already established, and for all its forcefulness draws attention to itself as an editorial decision, and not as a direct result of the events that preceded their inclusion in a scene.
That said, Elton John’s surprise appearance at the end of the film capitalized on the silliness of The Golden Circle’s endeavour to begin with.
It may not have been as brightly energetic as its predecessor, but if you have nothing better to do on a Tuesday night, Kingsman: The Golden Circle might just be worth it.