It's a high bar that Matthew Vaughn has set himself since making his directorial debut with the stellar Layer Cake way back when. Since the film that likely made Daniel Craig James Bond, he's developed a serious style palette and general panache for wry humour and action. The first Kingsman was the culmination of his evolving skillset and thus was naturally his biggest hit. The sequel, while generally enjoyable, is still admittedly his worst film to date.
Eggsy has settled into being a Kingsman, but has some old scores to settle. Toff bad guy Charlie (Edward Holcroft) actually survived the syncronized head explosions at the end of the last film and the two lads go at it right from the start - with Eggsy seemingly coming off the better of the first battle. But Charlie had bigger plans and manages to infiltrate the Kingsman database with the help of Julianne Moore's nutcase global drug lord, Poppy, and destroys Kingsman HQ, leaving Eggsy and Merlin (an always great Mark Strong) the only ones left alive. They soon realise their only hope is via their American cousins, the Statesman - a hillbilly secret service agency based out of Alabama. Oh, yea, and they have to save the world again.
Right, this a sequel that does, ostensibly at least, what sequels are supposed to do; bigger stars, bigger set pieces, with some characters from the past returning to wreak havoc. Taron Egerton is a young actor with a huge career ahead of him and having a franchise to rely on will do that career no harm. He's the perfect balance of cheeky and unsure, possessing a subtle physicality - to the point that it's tough to imagine another actor playing Eggsy now.
When you buy into Vaughn's world you accept that characters will return from the dead, the gadgets will get more outlandish and whatnot. The issue is it's bloated and Vaughn has indulged himself too much with the length and characters he was obviously attached to, while trying to introduce others his audience were likely expecting to see more of. Speaking of which, those expecting Channing Tatum or Jeff Bridges to feature much will be disappointed, this is a sporadic origins movie for The Statesmen on top of a Kingsman sequel and ultimately Vaughn just tries to do too much.
That said, this is very, very funny at points. The on-going Elton John gag seems like stunt casting, and it is, but John is game to take the piss out of himself and there are a few big laughs. Strong is excellent, effortlessly imposing and commanding while doing a flawless Scottish accent while Vaughn stages his action as frantically as the first, just more often - which can admittedly lessen the impact.