Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn't too bad
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    Kingsman: The Golden Circle was good, for a sequel. The film is an action-filled thrill ride with just enough social commentary and Elton John appearances to take the viewer out of the everyday for a few hours.

    Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the follow-up to the 2014 hit, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and boasts the same creative team as its predecessor - screenwriters Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, with Vaughn also taking the director’s helm.

    A year after the events of The Secret Service, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is still with Kingsman and has settled into his new secret agent routine. He is living with the Swedish princess, Tilde (Hanna Alström), from the first movie, and maintains a solid friendship with his fellow Kingsman recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson). But one day, he gets attacked by a disgruntled former recruit, Charlie (Edward Holcroft), and life takes a quick nose dive into uncharted doomsday protocol territory from there.

    It is exactly what someone should expect after watching the first film. It follows many of the same beats as its predecessor, including an outlandish yet overtly evil villain, gratuitous fight sequences that border on cartoonish, and a reliance on quirky spy humor to add some lightness. 

    Although in a lot of ways, the movie is a rehash of The Secret Service, it is not a direct copy. In similar fashion to the first movie’s villain, The Golden Circle’s Poppy is an intelligent figure in the world of business who crafted and implemented a world domination plan under everyone’s radar. But, in addition to her insanity, she is also a borderline sadist and this trait creates a fun playground for the film to explore.

    The fight scenes have their moments of being gratuitous and cartoonish but not quite in the same manner as the first because no one gets sliced in half up the middle. Overall, the film steps it up on the dynamic nature of its fight sequences (though let’s be honest, nothing they could do would beat the church scene from the first).

    And where the first film parodies James Bond tropes, The Golden Circle more plays into American culture within the Kingsman’s counterpart, Statesman. Statesman is the secret agency across the pond staffed with the likes of actors Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal, whose Americanism is nearly as gratuitous and cartoonish as the fight sequences.

    The Golden Circle organization itself carries some pretty interesting social commentary, though the writing couldn’t be any more overt with it if it tried. Despite the heavy-handedness, I did enjoy the idea that the film had enough courage to connect to something greater than itself.

    In similar fashion to The Secret Service’s commentary on climate change, this film critiques the American government’s war on drugs and the social stigmas it creates around drug users. The film attempts to normalize drug use and draw sympathy toward the group that society often chooses to believe is nothing but worthless delinquents by showing drug users who are, unexpectedly, upper-class. The message isn’t perfect and there are several moments of teachable takeaway exposition dump dialogue that the script uses to get it across, but the attempt is there, and I appreciate it.

    Overall, the film is well done for what it is and what it’s trying to be. It’s a lot of fun and a good way to forget about the stresses of classes, work, or just the general climate of the world for two and a half hours, while a series of lens flares and gratuitous action sequences plays on screen. The film is not perfect and don’t expect it to be. But, the filmmakers clearly tried to make the best movie they could to avoid the sophomore slump and it shows.

    Kingsman: The Golden Circle is playing in theaters everywhere, including Evanston Cinemark. (You can get discounted tickets on Tuesdays.) It is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout, and some sexual material.

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