The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE"

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle faces a very daunting task. How do you top the spy adventure that topped every Bond film in many a year? The answer, apparently, is that you don't. Whereas Kingsman: The Secret Service took the spy-movie formula to thrilling new heights that made it feel fresher and hipper than 007 has felt in a while, the follow-up suffers a bit from overkill. Even if it can't match its predecessor, The Golden Circle still offers enough lunatic fun to prove reasonably satisfying.

Julianne Moore plays Poppy, a large-scale international drug dealer with a wicked plan to legalize drug use that involves poisoning her own product. She destroys the Kingsman headquarters, leaving only two agents behind: Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong). They have to figure out what her scheme is and why she's making her drugs lethal.

The trail leads them to America, where a group similar to Kingsman operates. It's called Statesman, and its leader Champ (Jeff Bridges) assigns one of his men, Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), to help Eggsy and Merlin locate Poppy. Channing Tatum and Halle Berry play Tequila and Ginger Ale, two other Statesman agents who become part of things in different ways. If you've seen the film's trailer, you know that another familiar face is also part of the mission.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle runs 141 minutes and is all over the map, both literally and figuratively. The characters visit numerous locations around the globe, while the plot shoehorns in a slew of new characters and takes a great many detours. This is, after all, a film that also contains a couple of robotic dogs, a sinister United States president, a layover at the Glastonbury Music Festival, and singer Elton John. The original had a more streamlined story, showing how Eggsy got recruited into Kingsman, completed his training, and stopped a madman. It was a logical A-B-C approach. The sequel runs from about A to J, so to speak.

If it feels somewhat choppy pacing-wise, The Golden Circle at least has plenty of the elements that made the original fun. Nothing here hits the heights of The Secret Service's insane church fight sequence, although there are a few moments that come close. A scene inside a runaway gondola lift is thrilling, as is the opening fight inside a speeding car, which is set to the tune of Prince's “Let's Go Crazy.” The finale takes place at Poppy's compound in the jungle, which she's remade into a kind of '50s-themed utopia, complete with diner, bowling alley, and theater. Various sections of it are used throughout the lengthy sequence, to good effect.

Cool spy gadgets come into play at different times. The movie has fun coming up with gizmos that would make Q drool with envy. The comedy quotient is pretty high, too. Some of it is lowbrow, but hilariously so; an elderly extra gets what might be the funniest line in any 2017 movie so far. At times, it's edgy, most notably a sex scene that's bound to rankle some viewers. Other jokes are just pleasantly sly, such as the way Moore plays Poppy in a cheery Leave It to Beaver manner that's purposefully at odds with her ruthless behavior.

The other new characters -- Champ, Whiskey, and Ginger -- don't get as much to do as Poppy, but it seems as though they might become more of a factor in future installments. They've got potential.

Egerton, Strong, and a certain Unnamed Actor are once again terrific, and director Matthew Vaughn resumes the pedal-to-the-floor pace that made the original such a thrill ride. Kingsman: The Golden Circle certainly has its issues. Even so, it's a witty, exciting spy adventure with attitude.

( out of four)


Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. The running time is 2 hours and 21 minutes.


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