Kingsman suffers from sequel-itis

IN the first film about a secret spy group known as Kingsman, we learned they are well-dressed, courtly and perfectly groomed. 

From left) Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Pedro Pascal in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

IN the first film about a secret spy group known as Kingsman, we learned they are well-dressed, courtly and perfectly groomed. But by the second film, there’s a decidedly ungentlemanly whiff of desperation.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” comes three years after the first leg in the Matthew Vaughn-directed franchise — and it bodes poorly for the expected third. This sequel is an overlong, labored affair that lacks the fizz of its predecessor. Even an insane cameo by Elton John — in his full feather and rhinestone glory — can’t save it.

The charm of the first film was the way it straddled the line between celebrating spy movies and mocking them. It had a winking, self-aware humor. Plus, the action sequences were absolutely stunning, with cameras doing 360-degree turns, cool slo-mos and acrobatic fight choreography. The humor has worn off in the second, even if the camerawork is still spectacular.

In the sequel, the Kingsman are under attack and survivors are forced to flee to their American cousins, Statesman, a similar spy agency hidden in a Kentucky whiskey brewery. Firth is back and sorely missed as the Kingsman leader. The trouble is we watched him die in the first film and having him resurrected seems weak.

The solid Taron Egerton and the always excellent Mark Strong are back as Kingsmen, and Julianne Moore takes over from Samuel L Jackson as the evil mastermind and drug kingpin. She proves deliciously campy in her controlled ferocity. Channing Tatum has been cynically added for pure eye candy and he misses most of the movie while a subdued Halle Berry seems to be in another project entirely. Jeff Bridges, as the leader of the American team, may have signed on simply to be able to sample the free bourbon.

If the first film drew its magic from a “My Fair Lady”-like attempt by Firth to prove breeding doesn’t determine gallantness, the sequel lacks a central idea. But overall this sequel suffers from sequel-itis — a big-budget movie that rushes from Italian mountains to Cambodian rain forests but has lost the spark of its predecessor. The best moments are actually when it pays homage to the first film. The worst are when it takes itself too seriously, the trap of the very spy films it was designed to mock.

But let’s be gentlemanly: For a film series that cherishes the proverb “manners man,” let’s just say “rotten luck, old sport. Better luck next time.”

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