Argylle Brings a Chaotic Story to an Action Film

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Argylle Review
(from left) Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Aidan (Sam Rockwell) in Argylle, directed by Matthew Vaughn.

What do you get when you throw together a spy novelist, actual spies, and a cute cat? Supposedly an action-packed comedy. But the real result is a chaotic action movie that has too many lulls that it doesn’t balance out the laughs and action enough. And that, unfortunately, is what you can expect if you head to check out Argylle in theaters. This may be a title that is better left to streaming later on.

Argylle brings us the story of Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a spy novel writer who finds herself wrapped up in the middle of a story right out of her books. What she finds out is that the characters she’s writing about have real-life counterparts and she seems to be seen as a fortune teller by both the good guys and the bad guys. From the description alone, it seems like we have a Stranger Than Fiction situation going on where she writes what is happening to characters, but thankfully this isn’t the same story wrapped in a spy novel cover. That might have made the movie a bit better. She isn’t an omnipotent puppeteer controlling lives, instead it’s a bit deeper than that – and that may be the only thing we will describe as deep in the whole movie.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Alfie the Cat (Chip) in Argylle, directed by Matthew Vaughn.

In between trying to stay alive and the action scenes, Elly keeps seeing her characters in her mind and the action plays out switching between the spy trying to save her life and the fantasy one she writes about. Howard, herself, plays both the role of Elly as a mild and anxious writer and one that gets involved in the action well. And her casting is one of the few things we can laud about the movie with confidence. She would not be what you would expect as the stereotypical casting as a femme fatale in these movies and she holds her own in the scene with the other characters. She is more of an everyday woman, not a muscle-bound action hero and she fully embraces that. And unlike in Jurassic World – she no longer has the titanium high heels. At the first opportunity to remove her heels in a situation, Elly does and finds something not only more comfortable, but practical as well. She is a more grounded character in this way and that does help sell the twists quite a bit.

As for the rest of the movie – it has a few good moments peppered into the chaos. It flips constantly between Elly’s story and the reality around her and decides to take some pretty extreme twists along the way. Does all of this flipping around in the story and the attempted misdirection make sense for the run time? Not at all. So many items and things could have been cut to make the story better.

One of the key things the marketing has relied on promoting the movie was it being directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman franchise, Kick-Ass) and no doubt if you’re a fan of the previous movies from Vaughn, it might be enough to pull you into the theater. Yes, there are fun action scenes and some very colorful ones – things that you can expect from his style now. But it doesn’t have enough of a hook or a reason for fans to love this story. It seems like his “twisted mind” as the ads and logline say may have just fell down the rabbit hole and he hasn’t been able to write his way out completely yet.

Don’t get me wrong, Argylle does have some fun moments in it. But coming in at over 2 hours and 14 minutes – it seems like the movie tries too hard with goofy action sequences and plot twist after plot twist. Sure, we’ve all seen fun spoofs on action movies before and some of them very well executed. But this one just keeps trying to hit the mark and missing over and over again.

One major issue the movie seems to have is the cat – Alfie. Yes, this adorable Scottish Fold is used in all of the marketing of the movie. But as for Alfie’s actual role in the movie, it seems like a total toss-away and side note. Yes, the cat is adorable (when it’s actually the cat) and that bag is amazing. But they cut too often to a poorly rendered CGI version of the cat, and it takes away from the movie quite a bit. Besides several moments where characters are nothing short of abusive to the cat – it seems like they could have cut the cat from the movie completely.

Argylle is in theaters everywhere this weekend, and while it had a glimmer of hope with the other Vaughn movies fans like in the past, this one just doesn’t seem to have it. With an in-credit bonus scene that seems to want to tie the franchises together and a teaser for a sequel of sorts already in the works – it makes you wonder what they’re actually trying to do here. No doubt some fans will love Argylle but it is being released at the right time of year for the reception that it will likely receive.

Overall Rating:

Two and a half star reviews

About Argylle

Argylle

The greater the spy, the bigger the lie.

From the twisted mind of Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman franchise, Kick-Ass) comes Argylle, a razor-witted, reality-bending, globe-encircling spy thriller.

Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World franchise) is Elly Conway, the reclusive author of a series of best-selling espionage novels, whose idea of bliss is a night at home with her computer and her cat, Alfie. But when the plots of Elly’s fictional books—which center on secret agent Argylle and his mission to unravel a global spy syndicate—begin to mirror the covert actions of a real-life spy organization, quiet evenings at home become a thing of the past.

Accompanied by Aidan (Oscar® winner Sam Rockwell), a cat-allergic spy, Elly (carrying Alfie in her backpack) races across the world to stay one step ahead of the killers as the line between Elly’s fictional world and her real one begins to blur.

The top-flight ensemble cast features Henry Cavill (The Witcher), John Cena (Fast X), Oscar® winner Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Grammy winning pop superstar Dua Lipa (Barbie), Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Emmy winner and comedy icon Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek), Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service), and the legendary Samuel L. Jackson. Alfie is played by Chip, the real-life cat of supermodel Claudia Vaughn (née Schiffer).

Argylle is directed and produced by Matthew Vaughn, from a screenplay by Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman). The film is produced by Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling (Kingsman franchise), Jason Fuchs, and David Reid (Kingsman franchise). The executive producers are Adam Fishbach, Zygi Kamasa, Carlos Peres and Claudia Vaughn.

Apple Original Films presents, in association with MARV, a Cloudy production. Argylle is distributed by Universal Pictures.

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