By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

After directing movie adaptations of both Kick Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn has shown that he has the skills and subversive sensibilities to properly do cinematic treatments of Mark Millar graphic novels.  Unlike Kick Ass 2, though, Vaughn thankfully chose to return to the director’s chair for the Kingsman sequel.  The usual trouble with sequels is that they try to do way too much more than their first installments, and even though Kingsman: The Golden Circle does have a tad too much going on, Vaughn has still managed to make a fun and thrilling sequel  It is also a sequel that still appropriately deals with a more mature direction for the Eggsy character. Though not as inventive as the first film, Kingsman, part II is still a solid second installment that is an absolute blast to watch.

Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) has already spent a year working for the top secret spy organization Kingsman, and currently lives with Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alström), with whom he has a committed relationship.   An unexpected attack led by former Kingsman recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) sets up a chain of events which threaten to completely wipe out the entire Kingsman organization.  Left with few options, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) discover a clue which leads them to the US where they encounter the American version of their organization, a group called Statesman.  Led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Statesman assists Merlin and Eggsy with an investigation into the attack.  Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascual), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) get tasked with aiding the Kingsmen and their legwork leads them to a drug cartel named The Golden Circle, led by sociopath Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore).

In addition to writer/director Matthew Vaughn, co-writer Jane Goldman returns to help adapt this lively new installment of the Kingsman franchise.  The humor is mostly spot-on, often uproarious and the ideas are still moderately imaginative, especially in introducing and developing the new organization of Statesman.  This time around, the subversiveness is toned down some, but the outrageous violence and superbly executed action sequences remain.  The effects and editing that go into the action sequences are perhaps even more impressive this time around.  The movie does drag a little in parts and has an ending action sequence which starts off as breathtaking, but kind of fizzles out toward the end.  The film probably could have been better with more scrutinized trimming and a concluding action sequence that knows when to call it quits.

Still, I don’t think it is quite time for the franchise to call it quits and the returning actors don’t seem ready either.  Taron Egerton returns as a wiser and more mature version of Eggsy Unwin and performs with great confidence and charisma.  Though he is more mature in the film, the character hasn’t reached full maturity and does learn much in his journey here. Egerton benefits from Goldman and Vaughn’s solid development of the character which gives him, as a character and actor, new challenges.  Mark Strong reprises his role as Merlin, a character who serves as a trainer and tech support in the first film, but gets to show his talents and skills in the field in this movie.  Strong has always had a wonderful screen presence and here he continues to support why Vaughn has cast him in four of his movies.

The movie also can boast delightfully boffo performances by Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum, and lovable work by Halle Berry, Pedro Pascual, Hanna Alström, Colin Firth, Michael Gambon, and Sophie Cookson.  Colin Firth gets to show more range as the character Harry Hart/Agent Galahad in this installment, but I will leave it at that.  I would hate to spoil anything for my readers.  Finally, Julianne Moore delivers a stellar turn as sociopathic villain Poppy Adams.  She does a wonderful job as a cold-hearted killer and enterprising criminal who wears the guise of a sweet and loving matron.  Her seemingly perpetual smile and sweet, endearing voice is definitely unnerving, given some of the acts she commits.  Still, as dark and disturbing as her character can get, it mostly comes across as macabre humor.

Because the humor in the film works so well, in addition to the marvelously executed action, I still highly recommend this latest installment, especially for fans of the first film.  I would definitely temper my expectations for something more innovative, but I would totally expect a great time as some of the crazy and hilarious events of this film unfold.  The opening action sequence, along with some other applause-worthy moments are certainly worth the price of admission.  Should Vaughn, Goldman and company return for another installment, let’s hope they can pull off another movie without making the material too tiresome.





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