Sequels always labor under the burden of the first film and audience expectations. In the case of the “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” sequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” what proved to be exciting and endearing the first time around lapses into too many tricks and not enough substance.
Although you don’t need to have seen the first film to follow what happens in “Golden Circle,” little effort occurs in this sequel to set up character motivations or their histories. Everything revolves around the action and the stunts. You hardly have time to settle into your seat when the first wild car chase occurs, and people and buildings start blowing up. The reliance on action is fine, but unfortunately a whole stable of truly talented actors have to play second-fiddle to flying bullets, bombs, fires, and explosions.
The premise of “Golden Circle” relies on the set up in “Secret Service.” In London, a masterful government spy ring operates from a gentleman’s tailor shop where Harry Hart, code name Galahad (Colin Firth), masterminds an array of complex strategies to deal with evil doers. Now poor Hart has been reduced to spending his days in mental oblivion with no memory of his skill set as a spy. At present, all the spy work that occurs within the Kingsmen’s purview comes across the desk of Galahad’s protégé, Eggsy (Taron Egerton).
Young and energetic, Eggsy must confront a terrible truth after the drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) blows up the Kingsmen headquarters and board room. With the exception of himself, befuddled Hart, and the Kingsmen’s bureaucratic arm Merlin (Mark Strong), the entire force has been eradicated.
To rebuild the organization, Eggsy and Merlin travel to meet with their U.S. counterparts, the Statesmen in Kentucky. Comparisons to their cousins across the pond turn heavy with the Statesmen running their operation from a whiskey distillery. With Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) now involved, the drama escalates as the group heads off to Cambodia to deal with Poppy. Head Statesman Champagne (Jeff Bridges) aims to please and the two organizations coordinate the attack.
Of course, the resolution will set all things right, and Hart will remember his past, but not until we wade through more massive causalities, explosions, and fire power. Oh, and bodies in meat grinders.
It’s unfortunate that the smoke of all this chaos completely overshadows this group of talented actors. Who can compete with relentless fireworks and flying bullets?
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.