Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle continues the story of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), the newly installed Galahad, which was his late mentor Harry’s (Colin Firth) nom de guerre. Of course, if you saw any of the marketing for the film, you knew the big reveal going in – if not exactly how Harry’s survival occurred. Still, the story of the titular Kingsman is turned on its head in this installment, with the organization ostensibly destroyed save a few members. And by a few, I mean two. Merlin (played once more by Mark Strong) was not on the target list that included every agent of the Kingsman, allowing him to assist Eggsy in seeking out the group that sought to destroy them for unknown reasons. This time, the world of the underground espionage community is further elaborated on, with the hitherto unknown American equivalent of the Statesman introduced to fill in the gaps left by the deceased Kingsman.

Where the Kingsman are named after members of Arthurian lore, the Statesman take their names from alcoholic beverages, with their leader titled “Champ” Champagne (played by Jeff Bridges). In a classic take on the English gentleman versus the American cowboy, the theme is leaned into hard, with gruff, no-nonsense types prone to shoot first and ask questions later. The members that are introduced, and thus given focus to, is Tequila (Channing Tatum), Jack Daniels “Whiskey” (Pedro Pascal), and Ginger (Halle Berry), the last of whom is their equivalent to Merlin. While the Kingsman is at least modern enough to admit women to their ranks, it becomes clear quite quickly that the Statesman is not that evolved, even though Ginger’s abilities prove invaluable to their entire operation.

Once the action begins, though, it’s down to Whiskey and Ginger to aid the Kingsman in their brewing war with Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the delightfully saccharine villainess who wants nothing more than all of humanity to be free to do whatever drugs they want. She is willing to do anything to achieve that goal, often through fatal means. She is aided in her endeavors by Charlie (Edward Holcroft), who survived the fatal implant from Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) in the previous film due to Eggsy tasing him before the final battle began. Now with a cybernetic arm – the explosion still happened, apparently – he is her loyal enforcer and the person who warned her of the threat that the Kingsman would face to any plans she may have in mind. To say that he got his revenge on the organization which rejected him due to his cowardice would be an understatement.

The Statesman, as a whole, are not the focus of this entry, despite their relative importance. Channing Tatum is almost immediately written out of the film, no doubt due to his busy schedule (it was the 2010s, after all), but Whiskey and Ginger were more than happy to pick up the slack as the representatives for their organization.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle continues to lean into comedy with brilliant moments of levity to balance out the action and drama of the storyline. Despite how Poppy presents herself – as a 1950s-obsessed woman of the people – she is rather dedicated to legalizing all drug use. While Valentine nearly wiped out all life, Poppy held the entire Earth hostage with her plan. If not for certain politicians’ callous disregard for human life, she might very well have succeeded even with the intervention of the Kingsman and the Statesman. Poppy still stands in contrast to Valentine, who, notably, was incapable of seeing blood without throwing up. However, Poppy seems to relish punishing those who fail to meet her standards, including cannibalism.

Hanna Alström returns as Tilde, the Crown Princess of Sweden, and Eggsy’s love interest, who is patient and understanding of his duties as a Kingsman. She is in the process of fully integrating Eggsy into her life, which includes introducing him to her parents, the King (Björn Granath in his final film role) and Queen (Lena Endre). This continues to hammer home the theme from the previous film about what it means to be a Gentleman – or, in this case, a Prince. It isn’t what you say, but what you do that proves your worthiness, and this is something that Eggsy is continuing to struggle with.

Despite her patience, Tilde is clear in her limits and the boundaries that she is unwilling to let be crossed. All the while, Eggsy struggles to commit to her due to the pressures of being in her life. Tilde’s complaints are valid, as The Golden Circle plays on the tropes related to spy fiction – chiefly the hero’s need to sleep with a mark to progress in their investigation. Their conversation while Eggsy’s mark waits in the other room is incredibly serious, with Eggsy accidentally laying the groundwork for a proposal that he isn’t quite certain he can make. The damage, though, is done, and Eggsy is left to pick up the pieces as quickly as he can before he loses even more than he already has. Alström’s role is increased in this outing, even if she is sidelined for the climax again, allowing her to show more depth to her character beyond just being Eggsy’s love interest. Her role as Princess is not truly played on, but here’s hoping it takes on more importance in the third outing.

Regarding the supporting cast, this entry sacrifices most of its returning cast to focus on its new introductions. Sophie Cookson briefly returns as Roxy, AKA Lancelot, but the film wastes no time in killing her off, in what I consider one of the biggest mistakes that The Golden Circle makes. Clearly, there were many characters and storylines to service in order to make a cohesive film, but even as a supporting act to Eggsy, she proved to be a capable character in the previous film. It’s a shame she couldn’t build off that momentum and truly show why she was the best candidate to be Lancelot.

Along for the ride is Poppy Delevingne, as Charlie’s ex-girlfriend and the aforementioned mark – and while her role is brief, it’s nowhere near as brief as Cookson’s, proving central to cracking the case wide open regarding the Golden Circle’s actual plan. In addition, Tobias Bakare and Theo Barklem-Biggs are back from The Secret Service as Eggsy’s close friends Jamal and Ryan, with two newcomers (Thomas Turgoose and Calvin Demba) as Liam and Brandon, and finally, Samantha Womack is briefly back as Michelle Unwin.

Poppy, for her part, prefers mechanical minions but still has two that appear onscreen and are named – Keith Allen and Tom Benedict Knight as Charles and Angel. The rest of her organization is comprised of extras, but they certainly sell the part of 1950s-style employees. Despite running an international drug organization that multiple world governments would like to see dead, Poppy is not above killing those of her followers who refuse to follow her rules, save for Charlie – who proves to be her most competent ally that isn’t mechanized.

When it comes to the action, The Golden Circle does not disappoint. It takes full advantage of the cowboy motif, with quickdraw guns and whips, with an added twist that the Kingsman franchise is known for – such as Pedro Pascal’s whip being a razor-sharp energy blade. This entry also features a hilarious callback to Harry’s iconic bar brawl, where his efforts are hampered by his recovery from his wounds in the previous film. This allows Whiskey to prove his mettle and aid the Kingsman in their mission.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle may not have made as much money as its predecessor. Remember that it was shy of a few million with an increased budget of about $10 to $23 million, depending on your source. Thus, it was still financially lucrative enough to push its studio to consider this a franchise, with sequels, prequels, and television series all on the table. Ultimately, The King’s Man would be released during the Covid-19 pandemic, which explored the organization’s origins as a whole across the breakout of World War I. Like most films released during this period, its box office was hampered by varying factors, but they did not stand in the path of the concluding chapter of Eggsy’s story being greenlit.

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