Fun and (Spy) Games

Kingsman: The Golden Circle brings the franchise to America for more over-the-top espionage hijinks

If you thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was a bit over the top, and you liked that aspect of it, you'll be happy to know that things were just getting started with Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons graphic novel, The Secret Service.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an example of a sequel pulling out all of the stops, going into severe overkill mode and holding together quite nicely to deliver a fun time for those who like their movies a little nasty. It's too long at 141 minutes, and a pug dies, but the action snaps with expert precision and the cast kicks ass.

That cast includes Taron Egerton as Eggsy, Harry Hart's (Colin Firth) young recruit from the first film. The Kingsman, an underground, sharply dressed spy agency in England, remains in operation after the death of Harry, who took a bullet to the head in the first chapter. Eggsy has settled down with a royal girlfriend (Hanna Alstrom), and has segued comfortably into the life of a secret agent.

Then, as things often go when you are just starting to enjoy your job, things start sucking badly as missiles destroy Kingsman headquarters and strongholds, leaving behind only Eggsy and techy Merlin (Mark Strong). Eggsy and Merlin wind up in America, where they meet the Statesman, secret agent allies doing a similar spying service for the U.S.A. The task force includes Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger (Halle Berry) and Champ (Jeff Bridges).

The two organizations join together to battle Poppy (Julianne Moore in gloriously crazy mode), a very rich drug dealer who can afford to build a compound that looks a lot like Disneyland's Radiator Springs in the middle of a jungle. She's also wields enough power to kidnap Elton John, who makes for a very colorful hostage in her music hall.

Poppy has hatched an evil scheme to poison her drugs and hold all users' lives in the balance in exchange for the antidote. When she calls the president (Bruce Greenwood), demanding he pay a price for the antidote, the POTUS proves to be ten times meaner than Poppy. (An evil, selfish, conniving president? That's just crazy!)

Does it sound like there's a lot going on in this movie? Well, there is, and it's probably enough to command two films. Vaughn should've practiced a little more restraint and streamlined his movie. It's a good, fun movie, but it could've been great.

It does achieve greatness in some of its sequences, including a ski slope fight that goes to dizzying extremes, and just about every fight scene in the film is a decent pulse racer.

If you've seen the commercials, you know that Colin Firth returns for this movie. I won't give away the nature of his return, but I will say it's good to have him back and, speaking as a fan of the first movie, I accept the ridiculous plot twist that puts Firth back in the character. He's an important part of this franchise.

Like its predecessor, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is very violent, super profane and steeped in dark humor. This is a movie where men wind up in meat grinders and are cooked into hamburgers for other men to consume under duress. It takes a director with chops to pull this sort of stuff off and even make it funny. Vaughn is up to the task.

While the likes of Bridges, Tatum and Berry do fine with their smallish roles, Moore basically steals the movie in portraying one of the year's greatest, most memorable villains. Poppy is a total, sick hoot, and her penchant for cooking manburgers and terrorizing Elton John make her a unique kind of evil. Moore is no stranger to getting laughs, and she gets a lot of them in this movie, even when she's turning henchmen into chopped meat.

If you liked the first movie, you will like this one just fine, so get yourself to it for a nice blast of sick action as autumn kicks off. Also, if this movie is any indicator, you should be very careful not to ever piss off Elton John.

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