There are the good sequels, and there are the bad sequels. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) is in the latter of those categories. This was a disappointment to me because I felt like they had fun with the first installment in the franchise. All the subsequent attempts have paled in comparison, to put it mildly. I knew I was in for trouble when I saw the preview. In Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), Harry Hart (Colin Firth), codenamed Galahad (those who work for the eponymous private secret intelligence organization all have Arthurian appellations), is shot in the head by the villain three quarters of the way through the proceedings. Yet, there he is in the trailers for The Golden Circle, seemingly no worse for wear, or in this case for having a bullet put in his brain. The follow-up comes up with some cockamamy explanation for how he survives this wound, made even more ridiculous by my misgivings going into it. The rest of the movie seems to try a little too hard to be like its predecessor, but you can judge for yourself.
We are introduced right away to our main character from the predecessor, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is the new Gallahad in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. He steps out of the shop that lends its name to the service it provides the United Kingdom, and is greeted by a former rival from the previous installment, Charles Hesketh (Edward Holcroft). Charles is up to no good, which is inconvenient for Eggsy as he is on his way to dinner with his girlfriend Tilde (Hanna Alström), the crown princess of Sweden. During their tussle, Charles loses the metal arm affixed to him, and Eggsy is able to get away. This is part of the plan, however, as the arm is then used by a powerful drug lord known as Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) and her mysterious Golden Circle to hack into the Kingsman computer servers and bring down the intelligence service, including destroying their headquarters and killing all the agents in the area. The only two survivors are Eggsy and their head of technology, Merlin (Mark Strong), and they make their way to Sweden with Tilde. Seeking help, they turn to their American counterparts known as the Statesman, whose business is a bourbon distillery. When they arrive in the fine state of Kentucky, they find that their Merlin equivalent, Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), kept Harry alive, but he is suffering from amnesia. This is part of the assistance offered by Statesman head Champagne “Champ” (Jeff Bridges). He is going to partner Eggsy with Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum), but their agent exhibits signs of a mania, which they find to be triggered by the taking of Poppy’s drugs. This phenomenon begins to break out worldwide, and it effects Tilde as well. Meanwhile, Merlin works with Harry to recover his memory, which involves putting him through his agent training as he had before he became a member of the Kingsman. None of it seems to work until they get him to try and shoot a dog, which is meant to be the final test in the program. Now recovered, he, Eggsy, and Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Agent Tequila’s replacement, track Charlie and his associates, who are working for Poppy, to a facility in the Italian Alps. It is there that they discover there is an antidote to the drug, which has begun to also render those who have taken it immobile, eventually to die. The president of the United States does not seem keen to negotiate with Poppy in earnest, and is content to store the living statues in storage bins to rot. This makes finding the antidote a priority, but Agent Whiskey seems to purposely botch the assignment, prompting Harry to summarily shoot him in the head. While Eggsy had his suspicions, he is not yet willing to officially accuse Agent Whiskey of being a traitor. Thus, he hands Agent Whiskey’s body over to the Statesman to undergo the same procedure as did Harry. At the same time, they are able to gather enough information to discover the location of Poppy’s secret base hidden in the jungles of Cambodia. Eggsy and Harry travel there, assaulting the strange, theme park like compound and killing all the guards. Their goal is to stop Poppy from sending drones around the world in which she intends to disperse her drugs, thus making all the world’s leaders come to her for the cure. They get to her by not only taking down the henchmen, but Charles and her two robotic dogs. Next, they dose her on her own dope, which gets her to reveal the password to her digital empire. Who should interrupt them, though, but Agent Whiskey, who sees this as a way of eliminating drugs all together. Eggsy and Harry end up dumping Agent Whisky in a giant meat grinder, and are able to send out the drones loaded with the antidote. With the world saved once more, the Kingsman are re-established, Agent Tequila ends up joining their organization, and Eggsy marries Tilde. What a happy ending, no?
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bit of a mess. In the first movie of the franchise, it is a simple story of a kid from the wrong side of the tracks making it in the world by saving it. There is a certain charm, if inappropriate at times, to the goings-on. The sequel tried in some respects to do the same thing, while also introducing a number of other elements, which forced it to have a lack of identity. Is Eggsy still a ladies’ man or the marrying type? And there is also the already documented silliness of having multiple people survive headshots. They say that no one is ever truly dead in movies, but this is taking that concept to an extreme. Despite all this, the part I had the most trouble with also pertains to my Faith. Poppy is billed as the largest and most powerful drug dealer, essentially, in the world. She provides products that a far larger portion of the population than I would credit take. It seems to be mostly marijuana, but that is bad enough. Drug use and Faith do not mix, and those who abuse substances have God to turn to as part of their recovery program. I have been accused of being uptight, or set in my ways, about such matters. It may surprise you, though, that this strict, practicing Catholic does not necessarily believe that drug use should be criminalized. That would appear to align with Poppy’s goals, who wants the president to end the war on drugs, which is an absurd plot device. I believe, in any case, that one of the reasons why many young people turn to drugs is because they are considered so taboo. Hard lines on anything, particularly with youth, are seldom able to produce the results for which parents and authority figure hope. Instead, I think that all young people, especially those that belong to Catholic parishes, should get involved with their youth ministry programs. The Church in the United States has a great program called Life Teen, some of which deals with substance abuse. Instead of condemning people, it shows the kind of compassion God has for those who make those choices because, much of the time, they turn to drugs because they are fleeing something else, or are already wounded. What a world that would be, no? This way, if somehow we had something happen like what we see in the film, we would not have so many victims.
There is not much else to say about Kingsman: The Golden Circle. A once promising film seems to have turned into a franchise that has run itself into the ground. If you must watch any of these, please watch the first, and forget the rest exist. If you see it, then you will have seen the rest, anyway. The second, though, is certainly better The King’s Man (2021), though I wish that was a more profound statement.