Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Premise: The author of a series of spy novels (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds herself in the middle of an international espionage adventure.
What Works: Argylle comes from filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, who previously directed Kick-Ass and Kingsman, and he makes action films that have a specific style and tone. Vaughn’s movies are typically R-rated with an irreverent sense of humor and highly kinetic action set pieces and those qualities are found in Argylle. This picture is intended to be fun and clever and for a great deal of its running time Argylle is exactly that. The wit of the story is embedded into the action set pieces and into the editing which has some great transitions and juxtapositions. The initial story premise gives way to a twist that’s actually set up pretty well and the clues prepare us for the reveal without making it too obvious. The casting is on point with most of the actors well matched with their roles especially Sam Rockwell as the spy escorting the author to safety.
What Doesn’t: Matthew Vaughn is an excessive filmmaker and Argylle is overstuffed with too much of everything. It has a cast of too many characters. Several seemingly important players show up for just a single scene and many of those characters are played by high profile actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, and Ariana DeBose. Their appearances come across as cameos; these actors have nothing to do. The characters have no depth. Even the average superhero film allows its characters more dimension and complexity than the people of Argylle. This film is loaded with exposition. At multiple points the storytelling stops for a character to explain organizations and character backstories and how these people relate to each other. It’s not interesting at all and doesn’t clarify the action or the moral distinctions. Argylle is a familiar story of a rogue intelligence agency but there’s not much concrete at stake and very little differentiates the heroes from the villains. The plot is just as convoluted. Halfway through the film a big reveal changes the essence of the story and our understanding of the main character. In doing so, the filmmakers jettison the one element that made the story and the protagonist interesting. Argylle then becomes a standard spy shoot-’em-up. The special effects are terrible. The digital effects often look cartoonish especially the cat that the protagonist carries with her.
Bottom Line: Argylle is fun and occasionally clever but it’s also messy and overlong. The story begins with an interesting hook that gradually devolves into a generic espionage shoot-’em-up.
Episode: #984 (February 11, 2024)