There are action movies and then there are action movies made by Matthew Vaughn. With a proven track record, that promises unique action set pieces neatly placed within an interesting plot that's got enough space for some unique sense of humor, Vaughn is one of those rare filmmakers who just cannot deliver a mediocre flick. Probably that's why Argylle, despite having all the above elements albeit in erroneous proportions, hits you harder.
In Argylle, we are introduced to a reclusive author, Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) fresh from the success of her fourth book on Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill with a weird haircut probably inspired by Street Fighter's Guile) who also appears as hallucinations to her . When her path crosses with Aidan (Sam Rockwell), who calls himself a spy, he wants to save her from the evil espionage syndicate that she had written about in her fictitious tale. As Aidan saves her from an onslaught of assassins on a train followed by a slew of other places, Elly sees glimpses of the fictional Argylle intercut in the place of Aidan who has no trouble amassing an astounding kill count. Not only do these sequences make for some of the best moments of the films, but they also leave you wondering how they are going to unravel the knots. I even got reminded of the 2016 film Colossal where an unemployed writer unwittingly manifests a giant creature who wrecks Seoul based on the exact actions of the writer.
Argylle, unfortunately, loses its steam when it starts answering the multiple questions it raises in the first half. The film tries to be everything from a globetrotting James Bond-ish thriller while also taking jabs at how convenient things get in films of those genres. Argylle sports one of the best cast ensembles we have seen in recent times featuring names like
Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson. But almost all of them are reduced to mere cameos or tertiary roles that feature them in one-dimensional characters. The wacky yet intriguing initial sequences shouldered by Vaughn's wonderful visual language rake in a good level of suspense but soon, they wear out thanks to disappointing twists and deficient content.
Despite a tease on how the following films from this franchise can share the universe with the Kingsman franchise, Argyulle is a far cry from the comparatively well-rounded and vastly entertaining Kingsman films. Though the film has all the tropes one would expect from a Vaughn film, they do not come together as seamlessly as his previous works. With some jokes not landing as they were intended to, unconvincing CGI, spy-film clichés, an unnecessarily complicated plot and a hideously long runtime, the film has very little going for it. While the state of the planned franchise is unsure, it's safe to say that another entry to the Kingsman franchise would be a much-welcomed addition instead. Sometimes, it's alright to judge a book by its cover.