Released in 2015, Kingsman: The Secret Service was yet another successful collaboration between filmmaker Matthew Vaughn and comic book writer Mark Millar. Based on Millar’s graphic novel of the same name, Kingsman delivered a stylish, ultra-violent, and frequently funny parody/homage to the excess-laden, Roger Moore-era Bond movies. Kingsman very easily could have been a mess but thanks to the central mentor-student relationship between Colin Firth’s Kingsman agent Galahad and his brash young protege Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the film had heartfelt emotional core that kept things from veering off track. Now two years later, Vaughn and Millar have teamed up again for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a direct sequel that tries to up the ante in seemingly every way, with a bigger cast, even more bombastic action scenes, and a plot that seeks to expand the overall scope of the Kingsman universe. Thanks in large part to retaining the same creative team and principal actors, this is a sequel that doesn’t miss a beat in delivering the same absurd and cheeky experience that made the original Kingsman a hit, but those who enjoyed that film’s more grounded character moments may find themselves a bit put off by The Golden Circle’s increased focus on spectacle over substance.
The first Kingsman was unabashedly British, with a plot that, boiled down to its essence, involved the world being saved by classy British imperialism (and a bunch of cool spy gadgets). It’s somewhat jarring then to see The Golden Circle largely abandon the Queen’s country for lands abroad. Specifically, much of the film is set in Kentucky, which just so happens to be the home of the Kingsman agency’s overseas counterparts, the Statesman. The Golden Circle clears the board pretty early on with a devastating attack that leaves the Kingsman without a base of operations, forcing Eggsy and his trusty handler Merlin (a ridiculously good Mark Strong) to seek the help of their American allies. This move results in a nice bit of culture clash, as the suave Kingsman agents are forced to find common ground with their more uncouth, decidedly less stylish American cousins, whose defining traits are best exemplified by Channing Tatum’s Tequila, a good ol’ boy Statesman who initially doesn’t take kindly to finding a couple of British gentleman sneaking into his agency’s whisky distillery. Tatum isn’t the only new addition though, as the Statesman supply much of The Golden Circle’s new cast members, including Halle Berry as Ginger, the Statesman’s version of Merlin, Pedro Pascal as agent Whiskey, and none other than Jeff Bridges as their leader Champ.