Living & Entertainment

Scattershot ‘Kingsman’ sequel tries — and tries and tries — to top predecessor

Taron Egerton returns as the young hero secret agent Eggsy in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”
Taron Egerton returns as the young hero secret agent Eggsy in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” AP

Matthew Vaughn, who brought the world the wildly unhinged exploding-heads climax in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” is back. And the world wonders: Can he top that?

Answer: Not really. But not for lack of trying.

The shock of the unexpected that made that sequence so jaw-droppingly memorable, is gone from “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” as sequelitis has Vaughn in its grip.

The follow-up to his 2014 hyperviolent, boundlessly inventive spy-movie send-up gives the impression it’s trying a little too hard to surpass its predecessor.

It’s spotty, it’s scattershot, it’s got too many sequences that are either standard-issue spy tropes — cue obligatory high-speed car chase with Gatling guns and missile blasts — or just plain dull.

As to the latter: Whenever young hero agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) takes time to chat with his Swedish princess girlfriend Tilde (Hanna Alström) about the state of their relationship, the movie grinds to a shuddering stop.

The villain is a maniacal drug kingpin played with weird cheerfulness by Julianne Moore.

Her plan for world domination makes a not-so-subtle case for drug legalization and has echoes of the Samuel L. Jackson character’s scheme to save the planet by killing off polluting humanity in “The Secret Service.” Thus does Vaughn hammer home messages amid the mayhem.

More concerning is the matter of Harry Hart (Colin Firth), the suave, Savile Row-suited, ever-so-lethal mentor to Eggsy in all things spy.

He died in “The Secret Service.” Shot point-blank in the head by Jackson’s villain. Bang. Dead. But he’s back in the sequel. No spoiler here; he’s all over the trailer.

Bringing him back (complicated is the resurrection process) has the whiff of desperation. He was so popular in the original that it was clearly felt he was needed to give the sequel added fizz.

But Vaughn possesses a peculiar bent of mind — so very, very bent — so he’s mixed in cheeseburger cannibalism, fluttery butterfly hallucinations (amnesia-afflicted Harry was a lepidopterist in a previous life) and most bizarre of all Elton John as a spin-kicking action hero.

He comes complete with colorful full-length feathered outfit and stack-heel shoes, the better for kicking. To the accompaniment of — what else? – “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

Now that’s some climax.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

1/2 stars out of 5

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Elton John, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry.

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Running time: 2:21

Rated: R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.