It’s common for action movies to end with a hint at the sequel. The presumed-dead villain opening an eye. A long-lost character emerging from the shadows. The first Kingsman ended with a tease, we just didn’t realise it. With a final hideously ill-judged anal sex joke that curdled a mostly fun spy comedy, Kingsman teased the tone it would embrace in part two. The Golden Circle is less funny, more misogynist, dumber and meaner.
Returning co-writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman try to mask a messy story with a crowd of new characters. A drug mogul (Julianne Moore) kills off most of the Kingsmen, a secret order of British spies, in a plot to hold the world to ransom with killer narcotics. It leaves only rookie Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and tech guy Merlin (Mark Strong) to save the world, until they discover the Kingsmen have an American equivalent, the Statesmen. That brings in new agents Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges, promising big star fun, but most are extended cameos. Tatum is good value but put on ice after a few scenes and Bridges barely figures. Even Moore does most of her villainy via video conference. Her performance is also phoned in.
There’s a cruelty and laddishness to a lot of the jokes that feels outdated and grim. Killing is done more for delight than duty. Men always outwit women. One laboured gag has it that a tracking device has to be planted on a baddy’s girlfriend (Poppy Delevigne) via a mucus membrane. Eggsy can’t very well stick his finger up her nose, so he’ll have to put it up her vagina. (FYI, Vaughn and Goldman, the mouth contains plentiful mucus membranes). It’s a good ten minutes of screen time for a joke that boils down to ‘lol fingering’.
For a larky spy movie, there’s far too much static exposition. Action is scant, with wobbly CG and without the energy of the first’s church massacre or anything as imaginative as the blade-legged henchwoman, Gazelle. If there’s a saving grace it’s Elton John, as a furious hostage livid at being subjected to these people’s nonsense. After 140 minutes you get how he feels.