2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was stylish, campy, action packed, outrageous fun. It was a refreshing call back to the James Bond films of old and it ended up being a surprise hit and one of my personal favorite films of that year. But if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that following up a hit is not an easy task.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle once again follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the young agent of the Kingsman tailor shop in London that moonlights as an undercover intelligence agency. When a former rival (Edward Holcroft) resurfaces and compromises the agency, Eggsy and Kingsman tech guru Merlin (Mark Strong) are forced to journey to Kentucky and team up with their American sister agency, the Statesman (Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal). With their resources combined, the Statesmen and Kingsmen will have to work together to stop Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a deranged Martha Stewart-esque leader of a drug cartel.
The new characters, mainly the Statesmen, all feel like caricatures. But in a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, that isn’t a problem at all. As for the new villainess, Julianne Moore’s performance isn’t quite as charismatic as Sam Jackson’s in the previous film, but her actual motives are a bit more inspired and nuanced. Where The Golden Circle slips is in its narrative flow. There is a needless twist that the movie could do without and the story often creates loose threads that are tugged at but never fully explored. There’s also such a thing as overboard when it comes to quirky cameos (Elton John has entirely too much screen time).
But with Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) thankfully back in the director’s chair the tonal aspects of this film are almost identical to its predecessor. The action, humor, and style of this sequel all feel organic so there’s no real reason to dislike this film if you had any sort of appreciation for the first. Colin Firth (in an only moderately forced return) is a welcoming presence as Eggsy’s mentor Harry. Taron Egerton once again brings boyish charm and sincerity to the lead role and Mark Strong again feels like the cool, British uncle we all wish we had. With camaraderie and some brisk action choreography, Kingsman: The Golden Circle has enough of what audiences will ask for to offset any lingering side effects that inevitably come with being an unnecessary sequel.
FINAL GRADE: B
Another year has come and gone, which of course means it’s time to list my Top Ten favorite films of 2015. Quick disclaimer: These aren’t necessarily the films that I think are the best, but they are the films that I enjoyed watching the most. Feel free to click each title for the link to my full reviews of each film. Enjoy, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
- PEANUTS Shultz’s classic comic strip was beautifully brought to life with fun animation and an endearing story that made audiences fall in love with Charlie Brown all over again.
- KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE One of the most fun, action packed films of the year. This movie reinvigorated the spy genre with 90’s action film flare. Newcomer Taron Egerton was a breakout star while Samuel L. Jackson also turned in one of the best villain portrayals of the year.
- DOPE A witty, relevant take on the teen comedy that featured several bright young stars. It helps that it provided some of the most memorable laughs in any comedy released in 2015.
- JURASSIC WORLD With a nostalgia factor that was off the charts, and a charismatic leading man in Chris Pratt, this 90’s throwback managed to be a thrill ride even if it was just a rehash of the original Jurassic Park.
- STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Speaking of nostalgia, this film brought back all of the original emotions created by the classic Star Wars trilogy while also successfully ushering in a new cast of wonderful characters that I can’t wait to see more of.
- INSIDE OUT Pixar does it again. This time, the animation gurus gave us a unique story that blended some clever comedy with a heartfelt story filled with great messages for people of all ages.
- EX MACHINA This methodical thriller made me a huge fan of each member of its main cast. Stellar performances coupled with a sleek, yet simple production value helped make this film a science fiction classic.
- STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON I’m usually not a fan of biopics, especially if they’re three hours long. But this film was a pleasant surprise. Great music, sensational performances and a well crafted narrative made this movie feel like time well spent.
- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Coming in at a very close 2nd, is George Miller’s return to the Director’s chair to bring a new Mad Max movie that was perhaps even more fun than his original films. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult (amongst others) helped bring to life some memorable characters that helped transcend a plot that is essentially a non-stop car chase into a Summer classic.
- CREED Who new Sylvester Stallone still had this left in him? He and Michael B. Jordan combined to create the best onscreen duo of 2015 and make this Rocky sequel into the perfect movie-going experience filled with heart, soul, and suspense.
Honorable Mention: The Man from UNCLE, The Hateful Eight, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Walk, The Night Before, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Good Dinosaur, The Martian
Remember the old James Bond movies? Not the gritty, intricate Daniel Craig ones that are all fantastic, but the colorful unrealistic ones with Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, and Sean Connery. Those were the films where villains threw razor blade hates and had metal teeth. Those movies in comparison were completely outlandish (Like contrasting Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight to Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever). But, they sure were a lot of fun. Kingsman: The Secret Service harkens back to the old days when action movies didn’t have to be straight laced to be entertaining.
Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class) knows what he has here, and treats it like those quirky action movies of old. Like Men in Black with no aliens, Kingsman tells the story of a secret organization of spies. Colin Firth (in his first ever role as a badass) takes on the role of the wily veteran agent who recruits the troubled son of a former member (Taron Egerton). Together with other members of the agency (Jon Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson), they must stop a megalomaniac’s (Samuel L. Jackson) global plot to create mass level extinction. Sound enough like a throwback Bond movie?
While a proper homage to the classic spy genre, at times Kingsman follows every cliché imaginable. But what it lacks in plot and story, it makes up for in its characters. Taron Egerton is suave and stylish as the young lead, Eggsy, even if the rest of the young cast is forgettable. The real showstoppers are the villains. Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious as the eccentric, billionaire psychopath with a heavy lisp and a poor stomach for violence. He carries the charisma that all good spy movie villains must have. His henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), an amputee with blade legs, helps create some jawdropping action sequences. And there are plenty of those to go around, especially in the exhilarating final act.
If ludicrous plots, excessive violence, and use of the F-word in every other sentence are not your forte, then you should run as far away from Kingsman as possible. But if you’re looking for some swift action and a bit of self-referential humor (and if you don’t want to sit through Fifty Shades of Grey) then Kingsman is a great time. It is violent, gratuitous, excessively loud, and it’s the most fun film to hit theaters in 2015.
FINAL GRADE: B+