In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a sequel to the 2014 action-comedy based on the comic book by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, the villain is Poppy Adams, a global drug cartel crime lord crossed with 1950s housewife, gleefully played by Julianne Moore.
Poppy, who seems to control the distribution of all drugs across the entire world – from marijuana to heroin – has devised an ingenuous plan that involves poisoning her own supply of illicit drugs: millions of users worldwide will die within days unless world leaders agree to her demands.
What does she want? Well, this international drug kingpin – who, presumably, finances her Cambodian jungle mountaintop estate filled with robotic dogs and endless henchmen and a kidnapped Elton John from the sale of illegal drugs – wants the world’s governments to legalize and tax all drugs.
Yes, all she wants is to remove her one source of income. Libertarian ideals, apparently, are of greater concern than billions upon billions of dollars.
It’s up to the stately Kingsman – an immaculately mannered team of rogue British agents who protect the world while disguised as tailors – to stop her. Except, whoops, the whole organization, save for Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong), is wiped out by the end of the first reel.
Dipping into their Doomsday Protocol, Eggsy and Merlin learn of the existence of the kingly Statesman, the American version of the Kingsman hidden inside a Kentucky whiskey distillery. Led by Champ (Jeff Bridges), their ranks also include agents played by Channing Tatum and Halle Berry; Bridges and Tatum don’t get much to do here, but Berry, as the group’s equivalent of Merlin, has a couple nice scenes.
And stealing the whole movie away from just about everyone else – save, perhaps, for Moore’s loony villain – is Chilean actor Pedro Pascal as ‘Whisky’. Pascal, who was memorable as Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones and also stars in Narcos, is here a red-blooded cowboy Southerner channeling the spirit of a 1970s Burt Reynolds. He’s magnetic whenever onscreen.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of our heroes, and the film’s hopelessly confused war on drugs message makes their mission a muddle. Unlike the Libertarian villain who seeks to legalize all drugs, and the U.S. President (amusingly played by Bruce Greenwood) who wants to take advantage of her plan and wipe out all junkies, the Kingsman (and Statesman)… seem to like the bloodthirsty drug trade just how it is.
Colin Firth, who’s note-perfect blend of British refinement and brutish badassery set the tone for the previous movie, shows up in a somewhat different role here. But his strong presence from the previous film is missed.
Still, writer-director Matthew Vaughn, teaming with co-writer Jane Goldman, keeps things fast and loose and quite nicely captures the off-kilter look and feel of the comic book. Despite a longish runtime (141 minutes) and the plot issues, the introduction of the new Statesman characters keeps things fresh, and this sequel mostly equals the previous installment.
All that’s missing here is wild head-exploding finale of the first film.