January 30th, 2024
STARRING: BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD, SAM ROCKWELL, HENRY CAVILL, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, BRYAN CRANSTON
DIRECTED BY: MATTHEW VAUGHN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Argylle ended and there is a mid-credit scene explaining that what had transpired the previous two hours was connected to another movie series I had no idea about. This is a part of the cinema landscape that needs to be killed off. Not everything needs to be connected. If it arrived today studios would be asking Martin Scorsese to connect Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle in some way to Billy Costigan in The Departed. But it shouldn’t have surprised me because Argylle is a movie that thinks it’s smart but complicates everything. Director Matthew Vaughn has a knack for making high-energy action thrillers but Argylle lacks the consistency and excitement to be worth our time.
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the successful author of the Argylle series. Her story comes to life in the setting of Greece, with Henry Cavill as the title agent, entering a club and catching the eye of the seductive Lagrange (Dua Lipa). When things go bad there is a chase, along with Jon Cena and Ariana DeBose as his spy partners, but this is just a story. In reality, Elly is a reclusive person, unmarried and living with her adorable cat Alfie, determined to end her books with an impactful conclusion. And then a bit of writer’s block hits. Looking for inspiration, she decides to visit her mother (Catherine O’Hara), but on the train, she has a run with a real-life spy- played by Sam Rockwell- thrusting her into a situation that is eerily similar to the adventures of Agent Argylle. It seems that her life is stranger than fiction.
At first glance, Argylle is hoping for viewers to have fun and ignore all the other details. A constantly confused Elly hides, as Rockwell takes out an onslaught of thugs ala Bob Odenkirk in Nobody, all while the story tries to deliver a new riff on super spy thrillers. Unfortunately, writer Jason Fuchs can’t seem to focus on building to one twist but follows every twist with a series of more twists. The cluttered narrative is reminiscent of Bullet Train, including visuals that are too glossy to be authentic, with each fight sequence lacking any true excitement. As far as action films go, Argylle is flashy but misses the marks on why we enjoy great action in the first place.
It’s not a complete nightmare. Howard and Rockwell are genuinely having fun and a few set pieces earn high marks in creativity. Rockwell dances as his often charming self, while the Jurassic World actress is relishing her chance as a lead, even if it keeps her on the run. Sadly, everything else around them struggles, especially supporting performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Bryan Cranston, both with roles that feel genuinely beneath their abilities. Argylle fails to elevate characters big or small, often becoming so caught up in building a world of international spies, that it forgets to make us care about anybody.
As a director Vaughn continues to tinker with switching concepts on superheroes (Kick-Ass) and against the grain of what we get from the James Bond-type (Kingsmen: The Secret Service), he might want to just tell it straight. Argylle begins with intrigue, becomes confusing, then tedious, and goes on for what feels like an eternity. No amount of Rockwell allure can make it work and it feels better suited for a television series anyway. Even the cat- which is the best part- becomes a stale running gag. Argylle is one story that can just be left on the shelf.
ARGYLLE IS IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY FEBRUARY 2ND, 2024.
Written by: Leo Brady