Everything that worked about Kingsman: The Secret Service unravels in this bloated and soulless sequel. All the heart -other than the literal presence of Harry Hart- is gone, replaced by a superiority complex that lets co-writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman believe that what they have constructed is clever and a satirical take on the spy genre.

Both of those things were largely true of the original movie. Colin Firth underplayed his English Gentleman spy and allowed his younger sidekick, Taron Egerton's Eggsy, to send him -and our impressions of what a spy movie should be- up. The sequel adds more of Eggsy's irreverence, to the point of making him borderline intolerable to watch. Firth, as is to be expected, tries to make his characters miraculous recovery work but you sense that even he knows it's a mistake for him to have returned. A crucial emotional beat from the original is now rendered pointless, thanks to incredulous logic.

The plot -for what it’s worth- sees the remaining Kingsmen stranded after the ruthless destruction and slaying of their headquarters and colleagues. Only Eggsy and Merlin (the ever committed Mark Strong) are left and after a helpful hint seek the assistance of their American counterparts -The Statesmen, led by Jeff Bridges as Champagne, Channing Tatum as Tequila, and a spirited Pedro Pascal as Whiskey. When a strange recreational drug related medical issue starts afflicting people across the globe, all evidence points to Poppy (Julianne Moore, pushing the limited material she has as far as she can). The titular Golden Circle itself is poorly explained, with a lot of the circumstances around it seemingly only happening because they look 'cool'.

Characters that you liked from the original film are dispatched with in such a vindictive and preposterous way that you can't help but feel that nothing on screen matters. Great actors like Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges try to do something with their limited screen time and the juvenile sense of humour that the film doubles down on. There's something very off with the jokes and a sequence at a fictitious version of The Glastonbury Festival that sees Eggsy asked to place a tracking device in a...particular private place, should have been dropped at the first draft. Indeed, the film treats its female characters with such disdain -including Halle Berry in a thankless role as the Statesmen's Merlin equivalent- that you wonder if it isn't an attempt at making a satirical point around that very thing, but without the actions, go back it up.

Occasionally there is a nice moment and the cinematography is generally well-constructed, but the complete breakdown of the very thing that separated the original from the masses of spy movies, the heart and the sense of character progression, leaves a bad taste in the mouth after a viewing. Perhaps Vaughn and Goldman simply had nowhere else left to take the concept. Either way, this is a massively disappointing sequel that leaves any goodwill towards the ongoing franchise as dismembered as some of the characters who perish within its lengthy runtime.