'Kingsman: The Secret Service' surprised a lot of moviegoers in 2014 with its irreverent take on James Bond cliches by ultimately becoming a wildly entertaining send-up of the spy genre. It subverted expectations by being unpredictably original, over-the-top, yet compelling all the way through. The film's surviving cast members return for the sequel with director Matthew Vaughn back in the directors chair.
Taron Edgerton remains as likable as ever as Eggsy, a Kingsman agent who must once again save the world before a maniacal and exaggeratedly insane villain's plan comes to fruition. Once the Kingsman headquarters is destroyed, their journey brings them to Kentucky to enlist the help of their allied spy organization, The Statesmen. Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, and Halle Berry make up the Kingsman's American counterpart, and both organizations need to work together in order to stop a drug manufacturer played by Julianne Moore before her preposterous scheme is realized.
'Kingsman 2' has a lot working for it. Its cast has a ton of chemistry, including returning characters and new cast members. The pacing is just as zippy and quick as the first film. Being two hours and twenty minutes long, it could have been edited a little tighter, but the movie doesn't waste any time for the most part. There are a couple of fantastic character moments in this one, some great song selections, and a genuinely surprising cameo that had me laughing a lot. But, like many sequels, it suffers from simply not being as surprising or focused as its predecessor.
Some of the action sequences are over-the-top to the point that you lose any sense that the character is in real danger. While inventive and entertaining, many of the fight sequences or car chases are so computer-effects heavy that it all becomes a bit numbing. The first film was absolutely bonkers, and its sequel tries to replicate that level of insanity at times to varying levels of success. But it's lacking the thrill of first being introduced to this world of spies, the unpredictability of the training sequences, or the sheer audacity and insanity of the main villain's master plan. There are certainly moments in 'The Golden Circle' that match its predecessor, but the storyline itself feels a bit more generic than I was hoping for.
On its own, and not compared to the first one, this is a better-than-average action-comedy that features a great cast, inventive action set pieces, and some compelling world-building. While it is less mean-spirited and cynical than its predecessor, 'Kingsman 2' just can't quite overcome the problem that's affected 95% of sequels in my opinion, it's just not as good as the original. But it's still worth the price of admission for fans of the series, and I'm looking froward to where a third film could take us. I give 'Kingsman : The Golden Circle' a B-.