Argylle REVIEW – Starts Fun But Fizzles Fast


Almost a decade after the first Kingsman movie, and after directing all three films in that franchise in a row, Matthew Vaughn has broken free from the franchise to bring audiences…an action comedy about spies. Albeit in Argylle the story centers on lonely spy novel author Elly (Bryce Dallas Howard) who finds herself in the middle of an often very violent race for a MacGuffin, sorry, USB full of important information. Competing spy agencies believe her ability to imagine plots that have come true means she can lead them to the USB, making her a necessary asset to stop the information from falling into the wrong (or right) hands.

It’s silly, broad action comedy stuff, and it makes for an invitingly fun ride. The A list cast, including Dua Lipa, John Cena, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, Catherine O’Hara, and Bryan Cranston are all having a great time. Lipa in particular is magnetic in an opening sequence that drops fans into the plot of one of Elly’s books. Meanwhile, O’Hara steals every scene she’s in with her perfect comic timing and delivery, though it also helps that she has some of the best lines.

An early fight scene on a train delivers excitement and solid choreography performed by able stunt performers and, in classic Vaughn fashion, mixes humor in with the violence. There’s even a fantastically edited scene that sees the real good guys, the good guys in Elly’s books, and the bad guys (led by a joyously huge performance from Cranston) connect the dots of clues to discover their next step.

It’s also just nice to see a woman in her forties whose body isn’t the “perfect” standard for leading ladies lead a movie that cost $200 million and see Sam Rockwell as a romantic lead (yes, there is still a thirteen year gap between him and Howard, but I’ll take what I can get).

Sadly, Lipa disappears from the film after that opening sequence, Cena only appears again in one scene, and even Cavill who isn’t nearly as charismatic as those two mostly just shows up for brief moments in visions Elly has during her adventure. The scale of the action scenes soon expands, and any questions about whether the poor CGI and greenscreens of scenes in the bookworld were intentional vanish as we have to accept that $200 million still isn’t enough money to make a computer generated cat look right. Soon enough, what began as a romp becomes a slog.

The many, many twists make it feel as though anything we see will be rendered null or reversed in the following minutes, robbing the film of stakes. Howard is unable to keep up with those around her, even if she is purposefully playing the straight woman in a cast of wild characters, she simply lacks the vitality necessary to carry a movie of this size. It also certainly doesn’t help that she and Rockwell have absolutely no romantic or sexual chemistry.

By the time Vaughn is filling the screen with colored smoke as Howard and Rockwell dance fight their way through the villains’ lair, it’s hard to care. It’s even harder to disagree when Samuel L Jackson (again, stacked cast) shouts “goddammit, c’mon!” when the film seems about to wrap up but introduces a final action scene that delays the ending another five minutes.

Review screener provided

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Argylle draws viewers in with movie stars and humor, but soon becomes an overlong slog as the stars mostly disappear, twists repeatedly undercut stakes, and the leads fail to muster any chemistry.