Kingsman sequel goes pineapple-shaped
If the first Kingsman movie was a scrappy, yet amiable, wish-fulfillment piece about a working class oik who's inducted into the spy world and saves the day, then the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bloated, blustering bombastic pastiche spy movie that almost squanders the love you had for the first.
This time around, Eggsy (a charming yet still ruffian-round-the-edges Taron Egerton) is back and facing more peril after the secret Kingsman organisation he works for is blown off the face of the earth by a Martha Stewartesque, 50s-loving drug lord Poppy (a strong turn from Julianne Moore, who pitches the film more on welcome eccentric villainy than ham).
Forced to team up with the US branch, the Statesman, and with a surprise face back from the past, Eggsy and Merlin (the ever reliable and impressive Mark Strong) look to tackle the threat.
Over-long and with a midway lag that very nearly derails proceedings, Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels more like a mix of elements rather than the rip-roaring narrative success the first film was.
The US-UK relations side feels like a goldmine sadly left undiscovered.
While Egerton's rougher edges and charm add elements of charisma, the decision to pair them up with American counterparts leaves a little to be desired, given the film's refusal to do much more with it than initially flirt with the idea.
It's a shame, because Channing Tatum's cowboy Agent Tequila has some real comedic and dramatic potential for the movie - but he's sidelined early on in a move which makes you wonder if someone didn't add the budget up correctly and couldn't cover his fee.
Thankfully Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Narcos) steps in nicely as Agent Whiskey and adds a frisson of charisma that's needed - but bizarrely, the US-UK relations side of Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels like a goldmine sadly left undiscovered.
As the film kicks off with its bloodless CGI-charged chase antics, it's clear bluster is the order of the day, and while the overly frenetic and quick blitz editing in the fight sequences impress, they're barely a patch away from what was rolled out during the Kingsman: The Secret Service film.
In truth, parts of Kingsman: The Golden Circle feel like a go-around and do over of the first, so if you enjoyed the puerile hyper-violent edges of the first one, it's more than likely there's plenty to enjoy here.
Elton John's foul-mouthed tirades irritate the more screen time he's given.
It's very much a case of more-is-more with director Matthew Vaughn piling on the pedal and focussing less on the character more on the action.
A mountain sequence is redolent of The Spy Who Loved Me and the globe-trotting antics feel piled on, and while the overload is threatening at times, there are moments and characters within that work extremely well.
Moore makes for a good villainess, Strong is debonair any time he appears, Pascal's lasso-wielding cowboy contrasts nicely with the stiff British upper lip, and Firth's dialled-down turn adds an edge - but strangely feels narratively robbed of any kind of need for inclusion.
(Not so for Elton John, whose appearance initially is an amusing punchline to a gag no-one expected, but whose foul-mouthed tirades irritate the more screen time he's given.)
At times, it feels like the kind of Bond film that Alan Partridge would make - stuffed full of elements, smut and action, a no-place-for-women vibe and with less judicious editing than is necessary to guarantee a tight, lean experience.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle has moments of exhiliration, but feels a little too in love with itself to remain objective enough to know when to stop.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Mark Strong
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Running time: 141 minutes