Back in 2015, nobody saw Kingsman: The Secret Service coming. Although a solid ensamble on paper, Colin Firth was not known for starring in action movies, it was leading man Taron Egerton’s first movie role and Samuel L. Jackson sounded utterly unbearable as the lisping, Steve Jobs-inspired villain. Still, it seemed like a ton of fun and the one-two combo of director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (best known for previous team-ups on Stardust, Kickass and X-Men: First Class) ensured that it would be at least passingly enjoyable.
Hind sight is, of course, 20-20, and we now know that Colin Firth was a born action star, Taron Egerton an actor on the cusp of breaking out and Jackson’s Richmond Valentine the perfect cross-section of global villainy. Combine that with a deceptively sharp screenplay, insightful direction and playful callbacks to the golden age of spy movies, and it ended up one of the best movies to come out that year.
Thanks to the staggering amount of talent on display in the movie and its strong marketing, Kingsman: The Golden Circle made back five times what it cost to produce, making it one of the most profitable films of that year. This level of success, of course, did not go unnoticed by the studio that footed the bill, who immediately greenlit a sequel that’s set to come out later this year. And judging from the trailer that they just released for it, Kingsman: The Golden Circle looks to be every bit the exceptional film that its forebear was.
The sequel picks up in the aftermath of the previous film: in a world just barely saved from tearing itself apart. The Kingsman, however, are not fairing quite so well. After The Golden Circle — a clandestine New World Order — destroys their headquarters, the Kingsman, including the somehow still-living Harry Hart, must team up with their American counterparts, the Statesman.
It is increasingly evident that The Secret Service was a proof-of-concept for a spy franchise whose world is every bit as richly developed as the underworld of John Wick. Everything about the movie is bigger and more bombastic than its predecessor. The first movie’s modest cast returns with aplomb, joined by heavy-hitters Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and even Elton John. The Secret Service‘s relatively small budget has apparently ballooned in the wake of that movie’s success, and the stakes have gone global in a way that was merely hinted at in the first film.
The Statesman, loving caricatures of masculine Americana every, are the perfect counterbalance of their stiff-lipped British counterparts. From the silver flasks emblazoned with “Statesmen,” to meeting the disenfranchised Kingsman in a similarly branded distillery, from sporting weapons that ranged from a double-barrel shotgun to an Indiana Jones-styled whip to being led by none other than True Grit‘s Rooster Cogburn, they are the perfect pastiche of American self-image. And everything about it is absolutely perfect.
And while I certainly have some questions about how Colin Firth’s character survived a point-bank gunshot wound to the head, I won’t complain about his return. His turn as an ultra-violent superspy was the best surprise in a movie filled to the brim with great surprises. Besides, I can’t fault his literal turn as an eye-patched Nick Fury in the sequel.