Director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) is known for the campy, fun Kinsman film series and, while he has directed other movies, those tend to be among some of his most popular ones. They were also films he co-wrote, adding a more personal touch to the characters and the plots. While his latest movie, Argylle, isn't one he had a hand in writing, it is distinctly Vaughn as it has that same "Kingsman" feel. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World Dominion) and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), Argylle will premiere in theaters nationwide on February 2, 2024.
Elly Conway (Howard) is a novelist who, for the past five years, has written a very successful series about an international spy named Argylle. Elly, being rather shy, timid, and nervous by nature lives somewhat vicariously through the tall, dark, handsome, and mysterious secret agent and his team. However, when she finishes book number five, she decides to go visit her parents - traveling by train as she is afraid of flying.
While on the train, a stranger named Aiden (Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) reveals to Elly that her life is in danger and he proceeds to protect her. Confused as to why anyone would want to kill her, Aiden reveals that Elly's books mimic real-life espionage cases, and book five seems to be currently playing out. Aiden tells Elly that several corrupt government officials are anxious to find out how book five will end, however, that isn't entirely the truth. When she does find out what is really going on, Ellie is shocked and can't seem to comprehend it all.
Howard does well in the role of Elly, a Thirty-ish-year-old woman who is afraid of her own shadow yet lives alone in a cabin in the woods. It certainly seems to be the ideal location for a would-be killer to assassinate her. However, she also plays a fierce spy when she steps into the role of her lead character in the novels, Argylle, and puts down on paper what she believes he might be thinking. Rockwell is the unlikely spy trying to save her life and, while he does a great job, he and Howard don't have great chemistry which would have helped the plot a little bit. Cavill as Argylle and his sidekick, Wyatt, played by John Cena (F9: The Fast Saga) do play off each other well which is fun for the limited amounts of time we see them on screen together. Veterans Samuel L. Jackson (Captain Marvel), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Cathrine O'Hara (Beetlejuice) are masters of their craft and are terrific, and no one outshines them all besides Alfie, the cat (Chip).
Argylle is typical Vaughn with all the cheesy, over-the-top moments and some that fall flat, a humor that isn't terribly PC but isn't outrageously raunchy either, and some interesting fight scenes that are tame enough to be convincing. His camera angles are good but not exceptional. Unfortunately, the story is too long, and the special effects are awful. Making for some hit-or-miss moments and some chase scenes that take the viewer fully out of the plot because they are distracted by the poor CGI.
Feeling way too much like the Kinsman series with a touch of romancing the stone thrown in, Argylle isn't especially creative or original. Even the plot twist towards the end can't make up for the flaws laid throughout the over two-hour run time - Did I mention it was too long? The end credit scene does set the stage for a prequel but I'm not sure anyone really wants one in this case.
Good for a few (some very funny) laughs but overall, not a winner.