(On Cable TV, July 2018) I liked the original Kingsman film, but with a number of significant reservations: writer/director Matthew Vaughn can turn out action set pieces like few others, but his sense of humour is crass, and his fondness for unpleasant gore (matching the source comic) takes away from what would otherwise be a more fun experience. Many of those highs and lows are also on display during Kingsman: The Golden Circle: the visual design (wow, that villain’s lair!), energetic direction and colourful characters are all great good fun … if it wasn’t for such over-the-top gore as many characters being fed through a meat grinder with subsequent cannibalism. Eeew. Or the heave-inducing “plant the tracker” sequence plot-engineered to be as gross as possible. It’s things like that which make it impossible to recommend the film without numerous qualifications, or to justify the acquisition of a Blu-ray edition. Still, at other times this sequel matches or outshines the original. Plot-wise, the film’s mess: predictable set-pieces grind the film to a halt when they’re dull, and speed by when they’re fun. The American Statesmen offer an amusing contrast to the Kingsmen, expanding the madcap world of the original. Protagonist Eggsy is all grown-up, slick and suave, meaning that we get to spend far less time with the chavs and he gets to play the Bond role model he became at the end of the first film. One likable character makes it back to the sequel only long enough to be killed, but on the flip side we’ve got Colin Firth back with charm, Pedro Pascal making a great impression, Julianne Moore chomping on scenery as an unusual villain, no less than Elton John being turned in an action hero, and Halle Berry bringing her best to the screen. Some of the action scenes are fun in more or less exactly the same way as the original: Pseudo one-take action sequences with plenty of speed ramping are once again at the forefront of what the film has to offer in-between needless gore and adolescent tittering. I don’t usually bother with star ratings because they’re overly reductive, but Kingsman: The Golden Circle offers another failure mode for them: When the good stuff in the film is forth four stars out of five and the bad stuff is repellent enough for warrant a sole star, a three-star compromise doesn’t quite seem to accurately present a good idea of the final result. Can Vaughn grow up so that we don’t have to approach his next movies with a ten-foot pole and an apprehensive stance?