Kingsman: The Golden Circle: hellaciously violent and a whole pile of fun
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (R16, 141 mins) Directed by Matthew Vaughn. ★★★★
Funny thing. I was thinking just the other day I was overdue to hear Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting on a movie soundtrack again.
Over the last couple of months, via various wannabe-cool film-makers, I've heard a whole bunch of Bowie, T Rex and plenty of faux-ironic American hair metal thundering out of my local multiplex's sound-systems over the top of fight scenes and car chases from Atomic Blonde to Baby Driver and back again.
But of Elton, there has been nary a whisper. Which seems a shame. Because although everyone knows Bowie, Bolan and co are eternally and forever cool, it seems to me that only a native son of Pomgolia who can trace his roots back to the 1970's knows that Elton John will always be far, far more than the commercial-radio friendly pap he is still best known for.
So step forward Matthew Vaughn, best mate of Guy Ritchie, producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, director of Layer Cake, Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class and – of course – Kingsman: The Secret Service, to not only rehabilitate Elton's cool factor for another decade, but also to hand the bespectacled old dear a cameo as the unwilling, inhouse entertainment for Julianne Moore's psychopathic druglord, deep in her secret Cambodian lair.
And if that sounds to you like exactly the brand of deliriously silly old rubbish you were hoping for from Vaughn's own sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, then trust me. It is.
The Golden Circle, as the over-informative trailer has probably already shown you, re-unites the survivors of the original film – Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and, surprisingly, since we saw him apparently get his head blown off, Colin Firth – and sends them to the USA – cue Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Channing Tatum for reasons which make little narrative sense, but which will no doubt provide the boffo box-office this franchise is going to need to survive.
The action and the storytelling bowls along in a way that at least fills that two-hour-and-20-minute running time to bursting, stopping off at various locations – Switzerland, Sweden, Kentucky and the bottom of a lake in a London park – to stage a succession of mostly pretty good set pieces.
The references to 1970's vintage Bond movies are many, the one-liners are mostly funny and – importantly – the occasional mis-steps into outright sadism that marred the first film have been left out this time.
The Golden Circle is still an hellaciously violent outing, but Vaughn keeps the tone appropriately cartoonish and light throughout.
I liked Kingsman: The Golden Circle a lot. On a drizzling weekday morning in a near-empty cinema, it was a whole pile of fun. On a Friday night, with a crowd-whooping and laughing around you, it'll be even better.