Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Dua Lipa, Ariana DeBose, and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Sam Rockwell is brilliant at making the outrageous believable, and he tries his damndest to deliver on what director Matthew Vaughn is shooting for with Argylle: an outrageously fun and over-the-top action comedy. Unfortunately, he’s nowhere near enough to save the film from a script as superfluous as the main character Elly Conway’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) spy novels, some surprisingly weightless action, and staggeringly bad special effects. If you want viewers to invest in outlandishness, you gotta make the easy parts feel real, and Argylle is nothing but silicone. Man, what happened to Matthew Vaughn? Please come back to us.
While there are individual aspects I enjoyed about Argylle, such as Sam Rockwell delightfully leaning into charming badass mode and a few creatively conceived (if poorly executed) action sequences, the overall movie is an overlong, ugly-looking action-comedy that is surprisingly devoid of fun. Rockwell aside, the A-list cast mostly sleepwalks through a convoluted story that ultimately feels like director Matthew Vaughn trying to rip-off his own Kingsman franchise. All that said, it’s not unwatchable, almost entirely thanks to Rockwell. It’s just one of those disappointingly bland movies that will be forgotten until you come across it while flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon.
As a lover of director Matthew Vaughn's other spy movie, Kingsman, it brings me no joy to say that Argylle is a disaster. While some of Vaughn's signature insanity does sneak in from time to time to elicit some fun, the vast majority of the film is convoluted, messy, and an excuse to set up one predictable plot twist after another. While Sam Rockwell is great, he can't save the film's uninteresting plot or horrendous visuals. Not even the reveal of the REAL Agent Argylle is worth sitting through this slog.
Director Matthew Vaughn reinvigorated the spy genre with Kingsman, and while that film’s sequels have been a mixed bag, his style and storytelling has acclimated very well to the world of espionage. With Argylle, the style is present, but it comes with a disconnect. The "Vaughn moments'' work on their own, but they feel out of place within the story. Plus, despite the interesting cast, the performers’ utilization is often fumbled. The biggest difference from Kingsman, however, is that this film just isn't very fun, which is not by design. I didn’t hate Argylle, but it’s certainly below the bar Matthew Vaughn has set.
Argylle is an absurd, action-packed spy thriller that delivers charismatic leads and dynamic action sequences, but as the movie progresses, it gets more and more outlandish, eventually overstaying its welcome. Additionally, despite the fact that director Matthew Vaughn seemed to have a creative vision for this world of espionage, the movie’s excessive runtime, atrocious CGI, and bogged-down script favor style over substance. That said, this shouldn't deter you from discovering who the real Agent Argylle is because the movie is still ridiculously fun.
First of all…everybody calm down! Director Matthew Vaughn wanted Argylle to feel like a B-movie action flick (I hope), and his intention was to mimic the over-the-top, unrealistic, and trashy spy novels that occupy Wal-Mart bookshelves, which he succeeds at. Yes, the CGI is atrocious. Yes, it is longer than it needs to be (due to an easily cut-able Blades of Glory style digression from an already loose storyline). No, it won’t win any awards. Still, I imagine one of these days I will want to relax after a long day of taking life too seriously, and Argylle will be the perfect fit for mindless bliss.
Argylle is a bona fide masterclass in stupidity; a tacky, miscast, convoluted disaster. Honestly, I’m almost impressed that a movie with visuals this grotesque managed to cost more than $200 million dollars. Hell, it’s impressive that a script this nonsensical got picked up at all. The third act is so ludicrous that I slowly became convinced that I was actually experiencing a psychotic episode. A full-blown mental breakdown was the only realistic explanation I could think of to explain the fever dream playing out before me. I know the year is just getting started, but 2024 may already have its worst movie.
Although my expectations for Argylle were not particularly high, I did at least expect to have fun. For the first hour, I was mostly enjoying myself, almost entirely due to Sam Rockwell’s charming performance and the frequent appearances of a cat, but anything after this point was an effort to endure. The visuals are outrageously poor and unpolished, to the extent the film looked unfinished, the action set pieces are bland, and the plot is so convoluted it's boring. The fact that this is part one of an intended trilogy is astounding.