Kingsman: The Golden Circle review

This Kingsman sequel copped a lot of flack upon its theatrical release for a segment that became known as "the fingering scene" (if you have seen the film, you will know the scene I am talking about). It's clear that cowriter/director Matthew Vaughn likes to push peoples' buttons, as he had a similarly controversial scene – the "buttsex reward" – in the first film. Said scene in The Golden Circle got many members of the audience offside, but that's not the worst sin that this film commits...

The Golden Circle opens strongly with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) involved in a rather thrilling chase / fight scene through London in a black cab. Of course, seeing as he is the film's main character, Eggsy survives the attack by Charlie (Edward Holcroft) – a failed Kingsman candidate from the first who is working for Poppy (Julianne Moore), a drug kingpin with delusions of grandeur and plans for world domination. The megalomaniac then launches an attack on Kingsman HQ and the homes of all the agents – while Eggsy is, fortunately, off meeting the parents of his girlfriend, Princess Buttsex ... sorry, Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) ... for the first time – so he and Merlin (Mark Strong) set out to find out what's going on. And to do so they enlist the help of Kingsman's American cousins, Statesman, based at a bourbon distillery in Kentucky.

Therein lies one of the film's major flaws. Statesman is staffed with some fine acting talent – Channing Tatum as Tequila, Halle Berry as Ginger Ale, Jeff Bridges as Champagne and Pedro Pascal as Jack Daniels aka Whiskey. Pascal has a pretty major role, but the other three are little more than glorified cameos; and Tatum spend most of the film on ice. Why hire big-name actors and then sideline them for much of the film? Especially Berry, whose role amounts to little more than a glorified secretary. For a film that was go-written by a woman, Jane Goldman – who also happens to be one of Britain's best screenwriters (see Kick-Ass, Stardust, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black,The Limehouse Golem) – the level of misogyny is surprising. Not only is Berry's character poorly treated, but Kingsman agent Roxy / Lancelot (Sophie Cookson), who was so good in the first film, is killed off in the first act, along with Michael Gambon's Arthur and a bunch of other agents.

To top it off, though, is the much-despised "fingering" scene that seens Eggsy planting a tracking device inside the vagina of Charlie's ex-girlfriend Clara Von Gluckfberg (Cara Delevingne's sister, Poppy) at Glastonbury. This scene in particular did not go down well with audiences. Two other negatives: it's a little too long at 141 minutes and the return of Harry Hart / Galahad (Colin Firth) – shot and presumed killed by Samuel L Jackson in the first film – should really have been kept a surprise; instead, it was revealed in the posters and trailers.

Still, it's not all bad. As with Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Golden Circle does have its fun side. The action scenes, stunts and set pieces are well done, and are generally bigger, bolder, bloodier and louder than the first outing. There are plenty of laughs too, although the Elton John gag is milked a little too much. If you loved the first Kingsman, then you are bound to enjoy this one just as much and it will no doubt keep you going until the third film in the franchise is rolled out in the next couple of years.

EXTRAS: There's the very thorough nine-part making-of documentary Kingsman: Inside the Golden Circle (1:57:13), which at just under two hours runs almost as long as the film itself; the featurette Black Cab Chaos: Anatomy of a Killer Chase (12:49), which goes behind the scenes of the film's opening set piece; and the Kingsman Archives image gallery.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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