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For those who may not have seen the original film, Kingsman is an independent British spy agency that works behind the scenes to protect the world. The idea is sort of a mashup of the slick espionage shows and movies like ‘The Avengers‘ and ‘James Bond‘. The first film even slyly poked fun at this notion much in the way the ‘Scream’ films poked fun at the horror movie genre. Sadly, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘, comes up a little short of the original. While still enjoyable, the plot strains the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief and isn’t quite as fun as the preceding entry. Opening with an assassination attempt of Eggsy (played again by Taron Egerton) by a rejected Kingsman applicant Charlie (a role reprised by Edward Holcroft), the movie delves breathlessly into action with a well-choreographed close-quarters fight scene and explosive car chase through the streets of London. It’s revealed that this assassination attempt wasn’t merely revenge but part of a plot to take out Kingsman as Charlie is seen to be working for illegal drug czar Poppy (played gleefully, but a bit over-the-top, by Julianne Moore). A country-wide missile strike ends up being Plan B and all of the Kingsman agents are wiped out except for Eggsy and Merlin (once again played by Mark Strong). The “Doomsday Protocol” is performed by Merlin leading the pair across the Atlantic to the state of Kentucky where they are introduced to their American cousins: The Statesman.

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The group is headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges) with tech whiz Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and staffed by Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). After clarification of who Eggsy and Merlin are, The Statesman agree to help The Kingsman find and eliminate Poppy and the threat of poisoning drug addicts by obtaining her cure before world leaders capitulate to her demands of legalizing all drugs and granting her and her organization total amnesty. The real wrinkle comes in when it is revealed that Eggsy’s mentor Harry (played once again by Colin Firth) is actually alive, amnesiac and living in the care of The Statesman. From there, the world-saving begins in earnest with everything from robotic dogs, exotic locations and Elton John. (You read that correctly.)
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Even though the film clocks in at a lengthy 2 hours & 21 minutes, to its credit, the film never seems slow. I was a little disappointed by how sidelined the roles for Halle Berry and Channing Tatum were after how much they were both hyped in the previews. Jeff Bridges did a fine job of chewing the scenery and Julianne Moore as the villain was serviceable but her role lacked the charisma and punch that Samuel L. Jackson‘s villain has in the last film. This bit of criticism, from my standpoint, has less to do with her acting and more with the disconnected writing for her character. (I.E. The plot was wild but her motives and demands were mundane.) The standouts for me were Colin Firth, who tends to be superb in everything, and Marc Strong who gives, perhaps, the most real & grounded performance of the lot. It was also a delight seeing Elton John playing himself in a hilarious role as Poppy’s celebrity hostage / play thing who eventually gets his revenge in a deliciously fun and unmistakably Elton way.

So while this film carries the franchise forward, it also falls victim to “sequel syndrome” in not being able to completely recapture the elements and charm of the original. All of the actors do a fine job with what they are given, but some of the performances seem to suffer from being provided too little with which to work. Given the hype that the film has received and the anticipation of this sequel from fans who loved the first installment, I’d say that it will take the #1 Spot at the box office from ‘It‘ but will suffer a sharp decline for the second weekend. Based on all of this, I’d give the film a 6.5 out of 10.

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