‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ review: Sequelitis hits spy flick

Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are back in this sequel, which seems like it’s trying too hard to surpass its predecessor. But it does have Elton John, who’s a kick. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

Matthew Vaughn, the man 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 sendup gives the impression it’s trying a little too hard to surpass its predecessor.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,’ with Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Elton John, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, from a screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman. 141 minutes. Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. Several theaters.

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 picture grinds to a shuddering stop.

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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…

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