There are action movies, and then there are action movies made by Matthew Vaughn. With a proven track record that promises unique action set pieces neatly placed within an interesting plot with enough space for some style sense of humour, Vaughn is one of those rare filmmakers who simply cannot deliver a mediocre flick. Probably that’s why Argylle, despite having the elements of a trademark Matthew Vaughn film — albeit in erroneous proportions — hits you harder.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson
Storyline: A successful espionage novel author gets sucked into the world of spies when her story plots mirror the actions of a real-life spy organization
Runtime: 139 minutes
In Argylle, we get introduced to a reclusive author, Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), fresh from the success of her fourth book on Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill with a weird haircut probably inspired by Street Fighter’s Guile), who also appears as hallucinations to her. When her path crosses with Aidan (Sam Rockwell), who calls himself a spy, he wants to save her from the evil espionage syndicate she had written about in her fictitious tale. As Aidan saves her from an onslaught of assassins on a train followed by a slew of other places, Elly sees glimpses of the fictional Argylle intercut in place of Aidan, who has no trouble amassing an astounding kill count. Not only do these sequences make for some of the best moments of the films, but they also leave you wondering how they will unravel the knots. I even got reminded of the 2016 film Colossal, where an unemployed writer unwittingly manifests a giant creature who wrecks Seoul based on the exact actions of the writer.
Argylle, unfortunately, loses its steam when it starts answering the multiple questions it raises in the first half. The film tries to be everything from a globetrotting James Bond-ish thriller while also taking jabs at how convenient things get in films of those genres. Argylle sports one of the best ensembles in recent times, featuring names like Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, John Cena, and Samuel L. Jackson. But almost all of them are reduced to mere cameos or tertiary roles that feature them in one-dimensional characters. The wacky yet intriguing initial sequences shouldered by Vaughn’s wonderful visual language rake in a good level of suspense, but soon, they wear out thanks to disappointing twists and deficient content.
Despite a tease on how the following films from this franchise can share the universe with the Kingsman franchise, Argylle is a far cry from the comparatively well-rounded and vastly entertaining Kingsman films. Though Argylle has all the tropes one would expect from a Vaughn film, they do not come together as seamlessly as his previous works. With some jokes not landing as effectively as they had to, unconvincing CGI, spy-film cliches, an unnecessarily complicated plot, and a hideously long runtime, the film has very little going for it. While the state of the planned franchise is unsure, it’s safe to say that another entry to the Kingsman franchise would be a much-welcomed addition instead. Sometimes, it’s alright to judge a book by its cover.
Argylle is currently running in theatres