The sequel to 2014's popular Kingsman: The Secret Service delivers everything the original did - futuristic tech, gory hyper-realistic violence, tongue-in-cheek humour - with some fun new additions including an American sister agency and, naturally, Sir Elton John.
The Golden Circle is the largest drug cartel in the world, led by '50s nostalgia obsessed Harvard graduate Poppy. She resents the fact that she is the most successful businesswoman in the world yet no one knows her because she is forced to operate in secret. Poppy devises a plan to lace all her drugs with a deadly neuro-toxin and then trade the governments of the world the antidote in exchange for the full decriminalization of all recreational drugs. The Kingsmen team up with sister agency Statesman (a Kentucky whiskey distillery populated by Agents Champagne, Tequila, Whiskey and gadget-girl Ginger) to find and defeat The Golden Circle.
The film runs for a somewhat arduous 2hr20m, and one gets the feeling it's due to a lack of judicious editing rather than being genuinely warranted by the storyline. There are typically low-brow sexual scenes designed to make the teenage and teenage-minded males in the audience laugh, but this is not an intelligent movie at the best of times. There is a clumsy attempt to comment on the futility of the War on Drugs and the common use of narcotics among successful professionals, but also a significant over-representation of African Americans in all the wide-shots of infected drug users. And while there are a couple of solid female characters, the film spectacularly fails the Bechdel test.
Saving the world as only testosterone and machismo can.
There are some high points though. A main character dies heroically and, while the scene is typically over the top, it is dignified and moving and worthy of the role he played. It's also refreshing that Sir Elton is not just a cameo but a fully fledged cast member, and watching him beat up the bad guys in 6-inch heels and a suit made entirely of giant, rainbow feathers justified the price of admission by itself (although the majority of his dialogue is just screaming obscenities at Julianne Moore, which gets exhausting fast). The portrayal of the American spies as drunk cowboys contrasted to the English gentlemen is well executed and humorous and never becomes offensive, according to my Texan partner anyway. It's not a spoiler that Colin Firth's Galahad survives his head shot and his journey back to field readiness is equal parts charming, funny and bittersweet.
She can rebuild him, she has the technology.
All in all, this is a fun movie if you turn your brain off, and it's a worthy sequel to the original. But if you're watching it for Channing Tatum you might be disappointed - this performance is more akin to his turn in G.I. Joe: Retaliation than Magic Mike.