START as you mean to go on.

Director Matthew Vaughn’s high-octane spy caper sequel opens with a digitally-enhanced bang: an outlandish fight sequence inside a London taxi, aptly choreographed to Prince’s foot-stomping anthem Let’s Go Crazy.

Over the next two hours, Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman resurrect characters, who clearly perished in the first film, transform a cable car into a waltzer fairground ride and mince up bumbling henchmen for the deranged villain’s homemade burgers.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle quickly accelerates into the same preposterous groove as its 2015 predecessor, which introduced us to a secret fraternity of impeccably tailored British agents. Vaughn and Goldman dilute the repugnant traits of the first film – crude sexism, gleeful on-screen sadism – and leave us with a high-tempo exercise in gizmo-laden blandness.

The sole zinging addition to this expensive cocktail is Elton John, playing a deliciously potty-mouthed exaggeration of himself. Clad in feathers, sequins and frou-frou, the rocket man is out of this world.

Council estate hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is slowly coming to terms with the death of Kingsman mentor Harry (Colin Firth) when drugs cartel kingpin Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), loopy mastermind of a new world order called The Golden Circle, razes the Kingsman headquarters and terminates the serving agents.

Eggsy and technical support guru Merlin (Mark Strong) emerge unscathed from the rubble. Retribution begins in a Kentucky distillery, which is a front for Kingsman’s swaggering Transatlantic counterparts, Statesman.

The American operation’s liquor-swilling head honcho, Champagne (Jeff Bridges), partners Eggsy and Merlin with agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), who whip-cracks a mean electrified lasso.

The team criss-crosses the globe and edges closer to Poppy’s jungle lair, where Elton John is held hostage as her private ivory-tinkling slave.

The Golden Circle is an exhausting blitzkrieg of hyper-stylised mayhem that squanders new additions to the cast.

Logic is repeatedly sacrificed at the altar of cartoonish calamity.

Vaughn knows how to land blows in dizzying skirmishes but the tender emotional moments fail to connect.

A marginal improvement on the original, but the bar was set depressingly low.

RATING: 5.5/10