September 23, 2017 at 1:09AM

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Dragonlord's Review of KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Bottom Line: Despite the dazzling hyper-kinetic action, Kingsman: The Golden Circle collapses with a weak script that not only rehashed elements from the first film but also parodies itself.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is one of my most anticipated films of the year, not to mention Kingsman: The Secret Service is my one of my favorite spy action movies of all time. So it's with great sadness I report to my fellow Kingsman fans that the sequel not only fails to deliver but the last 20 minutes is an exhausting mess.

The film starts with Eggsy, now a full-fledged Kingsman, attacked by Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), the former Kingsman trainee turned traitor from the first film. A manic fight ensues, and coupled with the catchy Kingsman theme, we are reminded how director Matthew Vaughn stages these awesome fight scenes.

Eggsy survives the attack and gets home in time for a date with his girlfriend, whose identity was a pleasant surprise. Eggy's romantic relationship is one of the film's more enjoyable moments as it provides some humorous situations and just plain feel-good moments.

But when the Kingsmen are systematically eliminated and their facilities destroyed, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) follows their doomsday protocol and go to Kentucky where they meet the Statesman, the American counterpart of the Kingsman.

Similar to how the tailoring store is a front for Kingsman, the Bourbon whiskey distillery poses as the Statesman cover, as well as their main source of revenue. It's no surprise that their agents' code names are based on popular drinks - Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry).

Eggsy and Merlin also discover Harry (Colin Firth) is incredibly still alive. The explanation for Harry's survival is farfetched but plausible in the context of the universe they live in where technology is highly advanced. Due to the injury, Harry has retrograde amnesia and doesn't remember anything from his past life except for his love of butterflies.

With the Statesman's help, Eggsy uncovers the culprit behind the Kingsman's demise - a powerful secret organization known as the Golden Circle led by drug kingpin Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore). The Golden Circle is a multi-billion dollar business that manufactures and distributes all forms of recreational drugs. Lacing all the drugs with a toxin that will kill its users in a few days, Poppy blackmails the U.S. President to legalize drugs and give her immunity.

After that revelation, the film gradually drops in quality, meandering along with its insipid plot direction and still providing plenty of ultra-violent action but lacking any inspiration and excitement behind it. The original script from Jane Goldman and Vaughn just feels haphazard and clearly lacks the solid narrative structure Kingsman comic book writer Mark Millar provided. The plot doesn't feel fresh and in fact rehashes a lot of the scenarios from the first film.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was a cool parody of the James Bond films, particularly the Roger Moore era. But this time around, it seems they're also parodying themselves as The Golden Circle regurgitates a lot of the key moments from the first film and makes fun of them (example, the bar room fight and the ending's backstage pass offer). The film's running time is 141 minutes which is 20 minutes too long.

Putting aside the deficient script, the cast is a delight. Egerton, Firth and Strong are back and as endearing as ever. Eggsy and Harry's relationship is one of the strong points of the film. There's even a nice reversal of roles with Eggsy and Harry as the former protege becomes the more competent agent.

The all-star cast of the Statesman look good but don't be fooled, most of them just sporadically appear, probably due to the stars' constrained shooting schedule. But one of my biggest gripe is the way they handled the death to one of the key characters which I found to be just cheap and shoddily staged (see spoiler box below).

Julianne Moore was amusingly captivating as the loony but motherly megalomaniac Poppy but her lack of interaction with the main cast prior to the climax was a huge misfire. Most of Poppy's scenes are her doing a lot of trivial stuff in her lair, Poppy Land. And her master plan seemed too silly and uncreative.

One of the cooler aspects of the franchise is their spy gadgets and disguised weapons. In this one, Eggsy's briefcase was the coolest among them all, functioning as a machine gun, a grenade launcher and a ballistic shield. Whiskey's lasso was also nice. Poppy's robot dogs were a big meh though.

In the first film, the ending with the Princess caused some controversy. There's another scene in here that's going to create some uproar. It's a wink on an old James Bond tradition where he sleeps with the enemy.

Music legend Elton John has a sizeable small role in the film but quickly wore out his welcome as most of his scenes felt inorganic and just padded in consideration of the artist's stature.

Composers Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson are back and so is the familiar uplifting theme. The bombastic and upbeat score are one of the consistent highlights for the sequel.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Vaughn's first sequel and arguably his first clunker in his impressive and unsullied filmography. The stylish action and slick fight choreography are still as awesome as ever and the first 40 minutes was an easy 8/10 but the tepid script coupled with the third act's poor execution drags it down to mediocrity.

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