Nothing succeeds like excess, that’s what Mr. Wilde would say. Like its predecessor, all about the stylized Kingsman: the golden circle flickers just a little above: the sleek international production values, the perfectly tailored outfit of Savile Row, the hyperviolent action sequences, the depiction of something more than just a hint of innocent sex. (Whoa! Did I just witness a fantastic journey through a woman’s vaginal canal?) Based on the comic book series designed by Mark Millar and David Gibbons, this over two-hour sequel to The bloody, fun-filled 2015 action comedy about a British intelligence agency responsible for No One entertains without a discernible point of view except to shake up the shaken, unshaken cinematic legacy of the suave secret agent. It’s a slightly darker side of James Bond, a 007 squared story that is gleefully eager to shock and amaze.
In that follow-up, young rookie Eggsy (echoed enthusiastically by Egerton, a bloated and crass version of Mickey Rooney) rose through the ranks of the Kingsman organization after his mentor, Harry Hart (Firth), was gunned down. through the eyes in the first movie. But like Lazarus, Harry conveniently lives another day to help his former protege foil the evil plot of a smiley-faced villain (Moore, in perhaps his most embarrassing performance to date) who intends to exposing society’s pervasive recreational use by contaminating the world’s supply of illicit substances containing a deadly toxin. Thank goodness the tantrum diva Sir Elton John looks like the gaping-toothed offspring of a giant rainbow-colored turkey (the old maid is not a chicken), is on hand to shamelessly grab a mug and help the super spy heroes save the day. Her mirrored bathing cap alone is worth the price of admission. What did the camp do?
Some actors are making the most of the situation (Firth, Strong, Pascal), while others (Berry, Tatum, Bridges, Watson) are just a front put in for the inevitable second sequel. As for bit players, they are spectacularly consumable, downed in slam-bam showdowns set in a dusty Kentucky bar, outside a mountain cabin in the Swiss woods, and in a themed hideout. 50s in the Cambodian jungle that looks like a soundstage from Happy Days. Nothing in The Golden Circle, however, fits that mental sequence in the original film in which a mad Firth slaughters an entire congregation in a mountain church. It was a nightmare in broad daylight that you can’t ignore, the defining moment of a franchise that is likely to be successful as long as there is blood to be shed.