Handsome men. Smart suits. Walls of automatic weapons. Everyday items that are secretly deadly. A psychotic villain with the capability of potential world domination. This sounds like it could be a recipe for all-time cheesiness, but while "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" does contain all of these ingredients, it manages to be more than your typical mishmash of spy cliches. Just like the first film of the franchise, "Kingsman: The Secret Service," "The Golden Circle" has an understanding of what it is and is not, unlike many other films in the same genre. It knows not to take itself too seriously while also avoiding a devolution into full-blown Austin Powers-type slapstick.

The result is a film that is just plain fun.

About the film

After the first "Kingsman" film grossed over $128 million at the box office, writer-director Matthew Vaughn returned to take on the same tasks for "The Golden Circle." Screenwriter Jane Goldman also worked on both scripts, which were adapted from the comic-book series "Kingsman," created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar.

It would probably be wise to see "The Secret Service" before hitting the theaters for this sequel, as the plot spoils some parts of the first film and you'll get more of the references, but watching the films in order isn't entirely necessary.

"The Golden Circle" picks up where "The Secret Service" left off, with the protagonist, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), having become a Kingsman agent. Everything is going well for Eggsy, who has become comfortable in his life with Kingsman and is living with a Swedish princess.

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But Eggsy is suddenly forced to endure tragedy when the leader of an all-powerful drug cartel, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), targets Kingsman agents to eliminate obstacles on the way to executing her master plan.

Eggsy is forced to seek the help of Statesman, essentially an American counterpart to Kingsman. While the Kingsman headquarters is disguised as an upscale tailor shop, the Statesman headquarters is disguised as a bourbon distillery, developing a bit of a cliche yet fun contrast between the agents from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

With the help of Statesman, the remaining Kingsman members rebound from their tragedy and set out to save the world from Poppy's evil plan.

Breaking down 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle'

This is a "check your brains at the door" kind of flick—as it takes you on a 141-minute ride through various countries and locations (everything from the Italian Alps to the Glastonbury Festival), all you really need to know is which characters are good and which characters are bad, and it's pretty easy to tell.

This allows Vaughn to ditch any devotion to complicated storytelling and focus on what the audience really came to see: violent action and charming style.

For the most part, Vaughn succeeds. The opening scene is a little shaky, with a car-chase/hand-to-hand-combat hybrid that falls a little flat, but the narrative opens up into consistent over-the-top fight scenes that look great on the big screen and leave you unaware of how much time is going by. At 141 minutes, this film didn't feel any longer than the 112-minute "Baby Driver" (though of the two films, which can be reminiscent of one another for their extravagance, the latter is definitely better). The third act in particular was loaded with unrealistic mayhem that leaves a smile on your face—bulletproof umbrellas and suitcases; exploding baseballs; robotic dogs, which may remind some of "Fahrenheit 451;" a ton of guns, obviously; and don't ask how, but even Sir Elton John, in the flesh, somehow manages to mix himself into the action.

During the moments when no one is being punched in the faced, shot at, or lassoed to death, a star-studded cast is able to carry the film. Julianne Moore, as always, is great, providing a haunting portrayal of a villain who is obsessed with 1950s culture and, despite her ruthless malice, daintily says things like "Holy cow!" when met with trouble. If you ignored Moore's dialogue and listened only to her tone of voice, she'd sound like an old lady desperate to please the neighborhood kids, but her heartless words create an eerie contrast that is evocative of moments like the "Signin' in the Rain" scene from "A Clockwork Orange" (not that any aspect of "The Golden Circle" holds a candle to that classic).

Other stars such as Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges provide enjoyable moments in bit roles, though it would have been nice to see their talents utilized more throughout the film.

Vaughn also manages to mix in a few tender moments—nothing too emotional, but the film satisfyingly changes pace once in a while. Moments between Eggsy and the princess, as well as a scene that somewhat exploits the inarguable cuteness of puppies, give your mind a break from the otherwise nonstop action.

Though this is largely a "check your brains at the door" film, Vaughn does also mix in a bit of social commentary. The use of recreational drugs, particularly marijuana, has become something that's no longer only common among high school troublemakers—people in many walks of life turn to various illegal substances for relief, and thanks to Poppy's evil plan, we see that in the film. It's not any sort of revolutionary social statement—in fact, it's a fairly obvious observation—but it adds an interesting little wrinkle to an otherwise superficial film.

The verdict: 3 out of 4 stars

If you liked the first "Kingsman" movie, you'll probably like this one, as well. There's not a whole lot that differs between the two. Both feature likable characters in an action-packed plot who go head-to-head with a kooky, unorthodox villain. It's similarity to "The Secret Service" hurt its chance at another half-star, but "The Golden Circle" delivers on everything it promised, which wasn't much more than fight scenes and movie stars.

If you're looking for a film featuring Academy Award-caliber writing and direction, go see something else. But sometimes, it's nice to just sit back and let a movie wash over you without giving your brain too much work to do. Anyone looking for that type of flick will likely enjoy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle."