Kingsman: The Secret Service reimagined the British spy movie as a snappy action-comedy that was as smart as the bespoke suits worn by its agents. It was Bond meets Kick-Ass.

This ambitious follow-up is full of inspired moments, but it’s less controlled, suffering from the same kind of sequel bloat that affects the MCU.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) – now Galahad – juggles his new Swedish princess girlfriend (Hanna Alström) and time spent with old mates with the responsibilities of being a fully fledged Kingsman. That is until rejected recruit Charles (Keith Allen) shows up with a Terminator arm and a murderous agenda, and Kingsman HQ suffers a devastating attack.

In the aftermath, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) turn to the Kingsman’s American cousins, the Statesman, for help. Operating under the cover of a Kentucky whiskey distillery, these southern fried agents have the names and attitude to match – Tequila (Channing Tatum), Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry).

With Whiskey as Eggsy’s Statesman partner, the race is on to track down a nefarious new crime syndicate, which brands its operatives with the titular mark. And we also discover how Harry (Colin Firth) managed to miraculously survive that headshot from the original.

The first Kingsman was let down by the lack of a good villain (let’s face it, Samuel L. Jackson’s lisping Valentine was a bit rubbish). Fortunately The Golden Circle has Julianne Moore, who’s clearly having a blast running the world’s biggest drug cartel from a mountaintop lair decked out in fabulous fifties’ aesthetic.

But where The Secret Service wisely abstained from any Austin Powers-like shenanigans, The Golden Circle features a naff plot to hold the world to ransom that Dr. Evil himself might have hatched, a bit of stunt casting more suited to that franchise (but still funny), and a Glastonbury stopover for possibly the most inappropriate planting of a tracking device in the genre’s history. Oh behave!

Matthew Vaughn stages the big action sequences and cartoonish violence with the same style and verve, and thankfully avoids over-milking the comic culture clash between British manners and hillbilly hospitality. But an overindulgent screenplay and inconsistent pacing robs the sequel of the manic energy that made its predecessor so much fun.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle might be bigger and barmier, but that doesn’t mean better.

In cinemas: September 21, 2017
Starring: Taron EgertonColin FirthPedro Pascal
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn