"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" takes the "Ocean's Eleven" approach to spy thrillers, cramming it with inside jokes, celebrity cameos and absurd technology.
Flashing charisma and athletic ability to keep up with any of his better-known co-stars, Taron Egerton uses the film as a vehicle to make considerable headway into advancing into household name territory. Whether households will manage to pronounce "Taron Egerton" correctly is another matter.
Egerton plays a British spy with the codename Galahad who juggles a burgeoning relationship with a royal princess with his work duties. On his plate: Infiltrate a drug cartel run by a psychopath (Julianne Moore), seek out his lost mentor (Colin Firth) and prevent an epidemic from wiping out the population.
For that, Galahad needs some help beyond his usual array of flashy gadgets and martial arts training. He enlists the Statesman -- the American counterpart of the Kingsman spy syndicate.
Statesman agent Channing Tatum's tough-talking, Southern-fried smack talk sparks some comedic conflict with the Kingsman's prim and proper ways. Witty banter from writer-director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman is mostly there to set up nutso action set peices.
The film starts with a slugfest inside of a speeding car resulting in explosions and dismemberment, and that's one of the movie's calmer moments. Vaughn doubles down on the good-natured, consequence-free tone of the original "Kingsman" flick, shoving aside any sense of rationality in favor of the highest denominator that nets the most impressive cool factor. The only rule is that whatever pops up next must out-dazzle what came before.
You've got criminals going through meat grinders and coming out as blue plate specials. You've got robotic dogs pouncing on invaders of secluded compounds. You've got Elton John swearing up one storm and jump-kicking another.
This, kids, is one wacky game show.
Vaughn's capable cast holds the madness together enough to make it -- if not relatable -- at least compelling. The sequel manages to top the impressive original in nearly every meaningful way, cementing "Kingsman" as a spy franchise worthy of standing alongside the Bonds and Bournes of the world. It says something that the thought of another "Kingsman" is a more appealing thought than a follow-up from either of those.
Hail to the Kingsman, baby.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.