Director Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service, inspired by the comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, was a surprise hit in 2014, greatly increasing expectations for its sequel. To help up the ante, stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson are joined in Kingsman: The Golden Circle by the likes of Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. But how does it hold up?
The review embargo lifted Monday, offering an early assessment of what the critics think about the Fox sequel. The result, so far, is decidedly mixed -- The Golden Circle stands at 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of its nationwide release on Friday -- with the action ramped up but the movie feeling overly long.
Here's a selection of what critics are saying:
Kristy Puchko, CBR: "All in all, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a mixed bag. There are outrageous gags, insane action, and a plethora of colorful characters. But there’s also a lot of bloat with uninspired plot thread, retreads and retcons. Part of the rush of the first film was that its irreverent yet chic style and igonzo action felt fresh and unpredictable. In trying to hewn so closely to its recipe for success, the sequel is similarly amusing, but nowhere near as surprising or exhilarating. The thrill is gone."
Robert Abele, TheWrap: "Returning is Matthew Vaughn, his penchant for cartoonish violence, reactionary messaging and female-orifice-invasive humor intact, but his action chops and visual style sacrificed ever further to the glossy void of tension-free CGI."
Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph: "This crazily overlong and tiresome follow-up doesn't seem to have the first idea what to do with itself - not least when it comes to its much-vaunted all-star cast, the majority of whom are barely even in it."
Adi Robertson, The Verge: "[The Golden Circle] is good at hitting the best notes of The Secret Service, and it's just as stylish -- and as grotesque -- as its predecessor."
Adam Starkey, Metro: "It's still a thrilling ride with action sequences unmatched in their high-velocity blasts, but the new additions struggle to conceal the familiarity beneath this secret service."
Kyle Anderson, Nerdist: "I'd certainly be happy with more Kingsman movies, because [Taron] Egerton is a winning leading man and [Matthew] Vaughn's action direction remains fantastic, but this movie feels like a victim of its unanticipated success."
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant: "Kingsman: The Golden Circle doubles down on slick action and spy genre riffs, but adds enough fresh and fun elements to provide an exciting sequel."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "Even approached with the watered-down expectations that one brings to a late-September Hollywood sequel, Matthew Vaughn's bespoke secret-agent follow-up is massively disappointing."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "Considerable shrewdness is applied to the conception and execution of nearly every scene to make this old spy stuff feel fresh, which it mostly does."
David Crow, Den of Geek: "With so much madness stuffed into its sizable 141-minute running time, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a little manic itself."