Movie Review: Argylle

Stylish, smartly edited, and bursting with energy, the trailer for Argylle is fantastic. That’s about the only thing related to this movie the superlative could be used to describe. The actual production is the
polar opposite: Overlong, tedious, and bursting with idiot plot contrivances. There are obvious plot holes so big that a 747 flown by a chimpanzee could make it through. All the pleasure hinted at by the trailer is illusory. The movie’s two-tier structure is less convoluted than it initially seems (or than the trailer makes it appear to be).

Essentially, there’s a “real world” setup, focusing on best-selling author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), her cat, and her fussy mother, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara). Then there are enactments of
sections of Elly’s books (or figments of her imagination) featuring her hero, the suave super-agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) with a hilariously outrageous flat-top haircut, and his dour sidekick, Wyatt (John Cena).

Elly’s life takes a turn for the stranger when, while riding a train, she meets Aidan (Sam Rockwell), a fan who claims to be a spy. Moments later, she’s dodging knives and bullets in a fight for her life – all while carrying her feline, Alfie, in her backpack. Soon, she and Aidan are jetting across the Atlantic to keep one step ahead of the shady agents from a shadowy organisation run by Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston), who thinks she has insider knowledge because her books seem to predict the future.

Argylle gets worse the longer it’s on screen. It opens with a degree of promise but quickly abandons the quirkier aspects of the narrative to proceed in a more straightforward fashion. There are some early warning signs: The action is pedestrian, there’s a lack of energy, and the tone is inconsistent. By the 90-minute mark, Argylle tongue has become dislodged from its cheek as it devolves into a Jason Bourne Mission: Impossible rip-off with a lot of pointless action and lackluster stunts.

But none of this adequately prepares the viewer for the mind-numbing final act wherein those previously mentioned gaping plot ECHO holes appear (one related to a convoluted identity issue and one involving the inexplicable decision not to kill two characters) as the plot goes into a corkscrew nosedive from which it never recovers.

Not even a multi-coloured smoky massacre set to a pop tune can save this movie from a complete
implosion. There’s less Henry Cavill than one might expect (or hope for). He occasionally appears in recreations of scenes from Elly’s books and occasionally “appears” to her during fight scenes when he and Rockwell are spliced together. As the lead, Bryce Dallas Howard is fine in the first half and miscast during the second. Despite getting a lot of screen time in the trailer, Dua Lipa has virtually none in the movie (pretty much all of her material is used in the trailer), qualifying her appearance as a cameo.

Ditto for Richard E. Grant and Ariana DeBose. John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson get more on-screen time but have little to do beyond collecting paychecks. As for Bryan Cranston as the villain – his frothing at the mouth seems oddly half-hearted. He’s not necessarily more grounded than a generic Bond megalomaniac, but isn’t any more interesting. And I’m still not entirely sure what his motives are.

Director Matthew Vaughn has an uneven resume but, until he became mired in the Kingsman universe (the first film was good; the other two, not so much), he was a solid bet for a good time. His earlier films – X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman: The Secret Service – were enjoyable, bouncy romps. Argylle represents his first out-and-out failure. Indications are that Vaughn isn’t done with the Kingsman movies – a post-credits scene offers a tangible connection between Argylle and that series. Vaughn is apparently going for something that’s one part cartoonish action and one part tongue-in-cheek parody. It misfires on all cylinders.
Even if one takes nothing seriously (which is really the only way to approach Argylle), the action fails to excite and the comedy is flaccid. I didn’t laugh once, and the movie’s stylised and satirical tone defused any connection I might have felt for the characters.

Perhaps if the proceedings hadn’t dragged on well past the two-hour mark, it wouldn’t have seemed like such a chore to sit through. The film’s failure stands as a stark reminder that, no matter how seductive a trailer might be, February releases should always be approached with caution. This is
the month when Hollywood jettisons its refuse and this particular sampling belongs buried deep in a landfill.

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Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

About Author / Boluwatife Adesina

Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

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