Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has been feeling very pleased with himself as part of the Kingsman network of British spies, it has all been going very well and the status quo seems to have been balanced with their skills to hand. That is until one night when he is leaving the office, concealed inside an exclusive tailor's, and he sees a face from his past: Charlie (Edward Holcroft), who tried and failed to make the grade as a Kingsman agent, and was recruited by one of their enemies. Eggsy thought he was dead, but as Charlie launches himself at him, he realises how wrong he was: the henchman is working for Poppy (Julianne Moore) now, and she has big plans for her empire of illegal drugs...
The first in the Kingsman series posited itself as James Bond's badly behaved little brother, still patriotic but with the emphasis on irreverence and all the elements of 007's movies that were often complained about as excessive, be that the violence, the sexism, or whatever, ramped up to parodic degrees. The sequel was more of the same, with an anything goes atmosphere less wild and wacky and more lazy and arbitrary, which a lot of fans of the initial segment complained about too, apparently unaware, or choosing to ignore, that it had more or less been like that first time around as well. Put the blame on Mark Millar's source writing in the original comics, perhaps?
His work was not exactly known for its restraint, but then again director Matthew Vaughn was writing the script with his producer partner Jane Goldman, and all the flaws of both of their stylings were present and (politically in)correct. Less a refined spy adventure and more a whoopee cushion placed under not only the establishment but the great unwashed as well, the American input was intended to contrast with the older British society as a bunch of upstarts who nevertheless came in useful and had their own integrity: these were the Statesman agency, the Kingsman equivalent. But then again, the villain was once more an American, suggesting a lack of faith in those across the pond.
Moore was criticised for her performance, but should be credited for not giving into pantomime as her predecessor Samuel L. Jackson did, she actually wasn't that bad and would have been fine in a more disciplined movie. Despite getting murdered in the opening instalment, Colin Firth was back as Harry Hart, Eggsy's mentor, thanks to some science fiction explanation that really didn't matter; again, he was more interesting this time around for demonstrating a vulnerability that Vaughn predictably dropped when it was getting in the way of his cartoon violence, but for a while there Harry was more than two-dimensional. Unlike everyone else, it had to be said, but then there was always room in blockbuster land for something crass and shallow, and The Golden Circle assuredly fit that bill.
Take the scene almost everyone objected to, where Eggsy visits the Glastonbury Festival (the film comes across as less than impressed with the music entertainment behemoth) to add a tracking device to Edward's girlfriend to ascertain the location of the antidote to Poppy's deadly drugs. This tracker must be placed in her vagina, for no other reason than sniggering humour which was bizarrely offset by Eggsy’s soul searching about cheating on his fiancée (Hanna Alström), the Princess who provided a similarly off-colour punchline first time around. If you did not find this offensive, you would doubtless find it weird when it was presented with such seriousness. Then there was Elton John as himself and Poppy's kidnapped plaything, decked out like it was 1975 but at least getting his own martial arts moves in platforms, another joke given way over the top weight and exposure. Say what you like about Vaughn and his curiously conservative envelope-pushing, he was not usually as sprawling and undisciplined as this (the original cut was over an hour longer!), and the anti-drugs message was smug in the extreme. Still, his knack for spectacle remained a constant. Music by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson.