When Kingsman: The Secret Service landed in theaters two years ago, it was a surprising, if modestly guilty, pleasure. For more than 30 years—going back at least as far as Never Say Never Again—James Bond had been derided within his own franchise as a “dinosaur,” for his tailored suits, sexist attitudes, and proclivity for violence. Kingsman thus served as a kind of Jurassic Park for the Bondian gentleman spy, resurrecting him from prehistoric Connery DNA discovered in fossilized amber somewhere. It was, as I noted at the time, “reactionary bordering on retrograde bordering on reprobate [but] also a tremendous amount of fun.”
Pulling off such a satirical feat once was hard enough, and it seemed unlikely that the movie’s director, Matthew Vaughn, could manage it a second time. He doesn’t—quite. But Vaughn’s new sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, while not as fresh as its predecessor, is nonetheless better than one might expect: a goofier, more over-the-top treatment of a premise that was pretty goofy and over-the-top the first time around.
Kingsman, you see, is the name of a discreet and oh-so-very-British private intelligence service. (Its headquarters is accessed by way of a luxury tailor on Savile Row.) In the first film we watched the impeccably dressed, umbrella-wielding superspy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) take a young hooligan nicknamed “Eggsy” (Taron Egerton) under his wing and make him into a Kingsman—essentially a killing machine in vest and tie. Alas, before the final reel, Harry himself was shot dead.