“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

Susan Granger’s review of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (20th Century-Fox)

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Following his deliriously astonishing “Kingsman” (2015), Matthew Vaughn’s cynical, R-rated sequel continues the stylized spoof of James Bond spy stories.

With her retro-50s headquarters hidden deep in Cambodian rainforest ruins, the megalomaniacal villain is Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), the world’s most successful – and demented – drug dealer, who manages to destroy most of the Kingsman knights along with their bespoke tailor shop on Savile Row.

That leaves only Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), the cheeky former London street kid-turned-superspy who is in love with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), daughter of Sweden’s King and Queen (Bjorn Granath, Lena Endre), whom he rescued in the first film’s climax.

Eggsy and gadget-wizard Merlin (Mark Strong) venture across the pond to Kentucky to find American spy allies at Statesman bourbon brewery, run by Champagne – “Call me Champ” – (Jeff Bridges), whose cowboy team includes Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and tech-whiz Ginger Ale (Halle Berry).

Meanwhile, Poppy has implanted a mysterious virus to infect and, eventually, kill every drug user in the world. She intends to blackmail the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood) to bargain for the antidote. But her plan backfires when he opts to double-cross her – to the chagrin of his chief-of-staff (Emily Watson).

Meanwhile, having miraculously survived being shot in the eye, suave Harry Hart (Colin Firth) – whose Kingsman code name is “Galahad” – is suffering from “retrograde amnesia.” Locked in a padded cell, he believes he’s a lepidopterist (a butterfly collector).

And there’s an extended pop cameo by Elton John, being held captive as Poppy’s piano-playing prisoner.

Based on comic books by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, it’s sloppily scripted by director Vaughn and Jane Goldman, who rely far too much on crudely explicit sex gags, maniacal action and exaggerated CGI, lacking the essential element of surprise which made the original such a success.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a sassy, satirical 6, as the flippant, fun-filled, fantasy franchise continues.

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