My favorite joke among the many, in-your-face retro gags in "Kingsman: Golden Circle" is the part played by Chilean born actor Pedro Pascal. He's a character named Whiskey in the film, an American secret agent in an American spy outfit that doubles as a Kentucky bourbon distillery the same way "Kingsman" in London is a secret agent cadre doubling as an exclusive Savile Row tailor shop.
There are good reasons why he's code-named Whiskey, when a buddy is called "Tequila." But actor Pascal has been made up, groomed and dressed to look as much like '70s and '80s Burt Reynolds as humanly possible -- same drooping luxuriant mustache, same broad forehead, the works. He's not an exact Burt twin but he's weirdly close. And remember that in 1969, Burt did indeed star in a movie called "Sam Whiskey" (co-starring Angie Dickinson and Clint Walker). True, he didn't have the "Smokey and the Bandit" mustache then but here's a movie whose other retro jokes include Elton John hobbling around in a chicken costume and a big moment in which comedy mayhem explodes while the background is given over to John Denver's song "County Roads: Take Me Home."
That last is one of the supreme oddities of movies these days. Filmmakers, especially Brits, are filling the Denver family coffers by using the song constantly. (See "Alien: Covenant," "Logan Lucky," and "Free Fire.")
This is the wiseguy sequel to the wiseguy "Kingsman: Secret Service" which was a wild and woolly comic book parody of James Bond films -- not all of them, mind you, but rather the Roger Moore Bonds where the lead actor's snobbish disdain smothered every scene with cold amusement while the stunts and big budget whoop-de-doo seemed to be aimed at kiddies. And all in an atmosphere of adolescent smuttiness that would get one of the movies the title "Octopussy."
These "Kingsman" movies are weirdly violent but this new one is an agreeably crazy parody of a Roger Moore Bond movie, whatever that might be worth in film history or current box office. (More in the latter I suspect than the former.)
Taron Egerton continues to play a hugely boyish secret agent named Eggsy who dresses in Savile Row's finest duds to maintain a romance with a Swedish princess. Unfortunately, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who runs the world's largest drug cartel, has created a plan to spike all the world's illicit drugs and kill the users with a four-stage plague.
So Kingsman's agents are on the case. Which means they travel to the U.S. to meet up with their U.S. counterpart, which pretends to be a Kentucky bourbon distillery. This is where Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Elton John get into the movie as much as possible.
The movie finds a way to revive Colin Firth from being shot in his left eye by Samuel L. Jackson last time around. I'm not going to argue.
The thing is an over-the-top parody of going over-the-top--frantic, very silly, adolescently giggly, and nastily violent, all at the same time. A shameful way to spend 141 minutes but not boring -- not by a long shot.
Kingsman: Golden Circle
2 1/2 stars (out of four)
Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Elton John in violent, frantic all-star sequel to the first parody of Bond films going over the top. Directed by Mattew Vaughan. 141 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, drugs, language and some sexual material.