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Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Is Bigger But Not Better Than Its Predecessor

Sequel is entertaining but has too much CGI and not enough character

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Harry (Colin Firth) reluctantly team with their American covert counterpart Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) in "Kingsman: The Golden Circle."

Companion viewing

"In Like Flint" (1967)

"Kick-Ass" (2010)

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" (2014)

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" was a surprise hit in 2014 and now a sequel, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," arrives to see if it can repeat that success.

Inspired by Mark Millar's "The Secret Service" comic, the "Kingsman" films look to a spy organization that recruits street kids with potential to become covert operatives. In the first film we met Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) as they saved the world from a crazed tech genius (Samuel L. Jackson). Now they face Poppy (Julianne Moore), a woman who fancies herself the Martha Stewart of the drug world, and she wants to destroy Kingsman.

Since the trailers and posters have already revealed that Harry did not actually die in the first film as we all had thought, it's not a spoiler to say he's back. Or more accurately that he gets found by Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) after Poppy wages a major assault on Kingsman. The organization is effectively annihilated, and the only surviving members, Eggsy and Merlin, end up leaving England to discover their American counterpart, The Statesman, headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges). That leads to a lot of jokes about the differences between Brits and Yanks.

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" was over the top silly fun and also ridiculously violent. It ended with a symphony of exploding heads. So it's hard to imagine that the sequel could be even more outlandishly cartoonish, but it is.

It announces its style and tone with an opening chase that serves up impossible stunts that have obviously been accomplished with the aid of CGI. There's none of that jaw-dropping adrenaline rush that you get from Asian action films or the 87Eleven films ("John Wick" and "Atomic Blonde") where you know those are real people displaying amazing physical prowess and skill to deliver the fights and stunts on screen. But I appreciate that the film immediately announces its intent to top the original in terms of ridiculousness and unreal action. Audiences can't complain that what follows is not what they were prepared for.

But the problem with the sequel is that it relies too much on CGI and on too many massive action set pieces that simply lose contact with the characters amidst all the mayhem. We got to know and love Eggsy, Harry and Merlin in the first film and the sequel feels like it just doesn't want to take any time to hang with these characters that charmed us in the first film. That's director Matthew Vaughn not realizing what his strength was in "The Secret Service."

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" (rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material) is mindlessly entertaining and gleefully violent. Cast is engaging with a delightful cameo byElton John. The studio is obviously expecting it to do well because a "Kingsman 3" is already in the works.

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