‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ review: Everything a sequel needs, plus a superb woman villain

Director Matthew Vaughn more than does justice to the Kingsman franchise through new characters and a Spaghetti Western setting.
‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ review: Everything a sequel needs, plus a superb woman villain
‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ review: Everything a sequel needs, plus a superb woman villain
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Before watching Kingsman: The Golden Circle, it pays to be prepared for star power like no other. And yet Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal (of Game of Thrones and Narcos fame), Elton John (playing himself!) and Jeff Bridges are merely the supporting cast of the film.

Make no mistake: the second instalment of Kingsman is still all Eggsy (played by Taron Egerton) and Harry Hart (the indomitable Colin Firth) taking names and kicking ass in suits, and doing it in only the most English way possible — the accent included.

A major challenge that most sequels face — even those of successful franchises — is the need to ensure its audience remains captive to the narrative. With individual story arcs and character development more or less accounted for in the first film of a franchise, every sequel faces the all-too-familiar “I thought the first film was better,” from a sizeable chunk of its audience.

It is precisely here that Kingsman: The Golden Circle outdoes itself. The Matthew Vaughn film wastes no time in introducing us to bad-girl super-villain Poppy — Julianne Moore pulls off ‘crazy evil’ with minimal effort —who runs a drug cartel called The Golden Circle, from her hilly abode. A Wannabe Pablo Escobar, she calls the shots and is brutally unforgiving to anyone who crosses paths with her, executing justice with a deranged smile.

Poppy’s sidekick is failed Kingsman candidate Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft) who has personal scores to settle with Eggsy. When the entire Kingsman network is nearly wiped out within the first few minutes of the film, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) set out on a quest to avenge the attacks.

That’s when the film shifts to Kentucky where we’re introduced to The Statesman, which we’re told is the American cousin of the London-based private intelligence agency. Teaming up with Statesman agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Eggsy and Hart then begin plotting the downfall of Poppy and her cartel.

Through the narrative, Kingsman: The Golden Circle more than manages to keep the audience glued to the seat. From plot-twists and story arcs with a hint of suspense, to bursts of dark humour, the film strikes you as one that isn’t merely aiming to live up to the success of the first instalment. And while there are the ubiquitous suits, guns and gadgets that both Egerton and Firth pull off so very well, the characters played by Pascal, Tatum and Bridges, with an American setting to boot, bring a Spaghetti-Western feel to what is seen as a very British film franchise.

Elton John tickles ribs in a hilarious yet caricaturised avatar, even as the film attempts to satirize the office of the US President and nearly succeeds at it. Its action sequences go one-up over most other films in the genre, and the soundtrack keeps you wanting more country music. While it’s tantalisingly tempting to credit Moore with having stolen the show in her super-villain avatar, the film does justice to its entire star cast, with the exception of Channing Tatum.

Pedro Pascal, though, deserves credit for delivering a stand-out performance as a crime-fighting cowboy with a laser lasso. Incidentally, Pascal’s character, Whiskey, also does well to complement the Eggsy-Hart duo that pretty much stole the show in the first film.

As action-comedies go, the film holds its own in being an above-average entertainer. There is shock, laughter, action, a hint of gore and a surface-level moral discourse as the plot chugs along.

Watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle for the usual suspects — humour, action and a great cast. Also watch it for Julianne Moore showing us why she’s one of the greats. And for Pedro Pascal giving us reason to believe that he intends to move beyond his TV roles. Most importantly, watch it simply because as far as entertainers go, the film seldom disappoints.

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