It's always a relief when a sequel isn't a disaster, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle is far from that. I thought it was great fun and a likable and faithful continuation of the first film.
It has its flaws — it begins with what is now a tradition for comic book blockbusters: a big loud opening action sequence which is utterly ineffectual because the audience hasn't had a chance to warm up yet.
But the movie soon finds its footing with savage robot hounds and the cheerful grinding of a drug dealer into hamburger. Plus it cheekily introduces us to Kingsman's American cousins, the US secret service.
And a terrific villain in the form of Poppy, played by Julianne Moore. The most fascinating aspect of the film is the way that Poppy’s evil scheme — to legalise drugs throughout the world — is actually a sane and sensible reform.
And it’s blocked by a wicked US president who is willing to see millions die rather than end prohibition. This adds a layer of wit and even — dare I say it? — a suggestion of profundity to what is otherwise a jolly, glossy, bloodbath.
I suppose that's the embarrassing aspect of these movies... They're so unapologetic in their depiction of slaughter as a form of comedy. And I can't deny that I'm laughing as loud as anyone.
However, there is a moment of genuine artistry here when some butterflies painted on a wall come to beautiful, surreal life. And the same poetic imagery
comes into play again at the end when the golden circle of the title
turns out to also refer to the wedding ring which our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) gives his beloved.
This sequel also scores in the way Elton John puts in an amusing cameo as himself and gets to do action scenes and swear a great deal.
And we’re reminded again that Taron Egerton can really act, as of course can Colin Firth. In a scene where they watch a friend sacrifice himself for the greater good, we can really feel their pain and loss, and see it on their faces.
Speaking of sacrifices, this is the big flaw in both these movies. Last time they killed off Firth's character, Harry Hart, and realised that it was such a huge mistake they have to bring him back to life for this sequel.
But they still haven’t learned their lesson and at the beginning of this movie they casually wipe out Roxy, aka Lancelot (Sophie Cookson), an excellent character and one who deserved a better fate. Roxy also got short shrift in the first film, where her story just trailed off instead of paying off.
This is because Kingsman is essentially a boys' club and girls aren't allowed to play. In the new movie Halle Berry is given very little to do. She's promoted to full secret agent status at the end, but I doubt anything will change come the third movie in this series.
I'm still kind of looking forward to it, though.
(Image credits: Plentiful posters at Imp Awards.)