Suited? Or booted? Our take on Matthew Vaughn’s sharply-at­tired spy-fi blow-out.

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re­leased OUT NOW! 15 | 141 min­utes Di­rec­tor Matthew Vaughn Cast Taron eger­ton, Colin Firth, Mark strong, Chan­ning Ta­tum, Ju­lianne Moore, Halle Berry

Se­quels are of­ten touted as big­ger and bet­ter than the films that pre­ceded them. Bud­gets are boosted, more fa­mous names can be coaxed into shar­ing the screen with the estab­lished cast, and there’s the temp­ta­tion to ramp up the set-pieces.

So it is with Matthew Vaughn’s first stab at a fol­low-up (we’re not count­ing Kick-Ass 2, as he only pro­duced it), which takes what largely worked (and a lot of what didn’t) about Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice, and sub­se­quently di­als ev­ery­thing up to an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­gree.

If you en­joyed the street-tough-turned-spy stylings of Taron Eger­ton last time round, then the chances are you’ll be happy to see him back as Gary “Eg­gsy” Unwin, here a fully fledged mem­ber of elite, be­spoke in­tel­li­gence agency Kings­man. Eger­ton re­mains like­able and en­thu­si­as­tic in the role, even as he’s con­fronted by a dooms­day sce­nario hatched by Ju­lianne Moore’s nos­tal­gia-lov­ing drugs king­pin. For­tu­nately, he still has loyal gad­get ex­pert and dry-wit­ted Scot Mer­lin (Mark Strong) by his side, and the two con­tinue to share an easy chem­istry.

Then there’s Colin Firth. Vaughn has been teas­ing for a long time that he will find a way to bring back Harry Hart, seem­ingly shot dead in the pre­vi­ous film, and while we won’t go into the specifics of how it’s done, suf­fice to say he’s a wel­come re­turn, even if his plot­line comes across as less than sat­is­fy­ing.

The wack­ier por­tions of the film are more of a mixed bag, though it is fun to see how El­ton John is used, and one stand­out se­quence finds Moore’s Poppy deal­ing with a hench­man’s dis­loy­alty in a way that’ll make you think twice about din­ner af­ter the film. It’s that will­ing­ness to go just one step fur­ther than most movies of the genre that help the Kings­man en­tries stand out a lit­tle bit, with Vaughn and co hav­ing some cheeky fun with the idea of a ram­rod-stiff spy agency bat­tling the weird­est wrong-do­ers that his imag­i­na­tion can dream up.

Trou­ble is, ev­ery­thing that was crude, stupid and thought­less in the first film is also main­tained, and sim­i­larly amped to such a de­gree that it’s of­ten off-putting. Though there is an at­tempt to hu­man­ise the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Eg­gsy and Swedish royal Tilde (Hanna Al­ström) af­ter the anal sex gag of the orig­i­nal, here she’s largely re­duced to the role of lov­ing/nag­ging girl­friend and damsel in dis­tress. And all of that lim­ited progress is un­done by a spec­tac­u­larly tone-deaf at­tempt to craft an even more “out­ra­geous” car­nal gag, this time around fo­cus­ing on a need to im­plant a tracker in an in­ti­mate area.

We get it: the Bond films of­ten used sex jokes. But team Kings­man

It di­als ev­ery­thing up to an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­gree

– even with the tal­ented Jane Gold­man back on co-writ­ing duty – never finds the right way to de­ploy that kind of hu­mour. It’s like a teenager try­ing to write a Bond script af­ter por­ing through old is­sues of Viz.

Mixed mes­sages also plague the film, which hinges on a plot about Poppy’s plans for her mil­lions of loyal cus­tomers, but in the process causes a third-act dilemma that has the script and char­ac­ters hedg­ing their bets so as to cover both sides, nei­ther of them man­ag­ing to do so par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tively.

And for all the shiny new Hol­ly­wood ad­di­tions to the cast, few have the chance to make much of an im­pact. Chan­ning Ta­tum is wasted in a role that has less screen time than two robot dogs, Moore is re­duced to a ba­sic vil­lain who has a cou­ple of quirks but lit­tle in the way of ac­tual de­vel­op­ment, and nei­ther Halle Berry nor Jeff Bridges fea­ture much be­yond a few script pages.

It does make you won­der quite why most of them both­ered to sign on at all be­yond what we can only guess was an easy pay­day. Game

Of Thrones vet­eran Pedro Pas­cal is at least of­fered some­thing of a proper story, makes the most of his whip-crack­ing ways, and works well with the likes of Eger­ton and Strong. The Golden Cir­cle might in­deed

be big­ger than The Se­cret Ser­vice, but it most def­i­nitely is not bet­ter. Am­bi­tion is one thing; ex­cess is an­other, and this is a case study in hav­ing your cake, blow­ing it up with a grenade and then try­ing to eat it. Jim Blakey

Eg­gsy wasn’t sure about the Ju­manji cross­over.

It was the only way to get through Iron Fist.

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