“Argylle”: “Fight Club” meets “The Spy Who Loved Me” in a unique take on the spy genre

by Gavin Meichelbock

In director Matthew Vaughn’s newest film “Argylle,” Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a reclusive cat lady and author of the fictional book series “Argylle.” The cat gets let out of the bag, however, when it turns out her novels are all real and her latest one holds the answer to locating vital intel in the real world. Hunted by two competing organizations, Elly is thrust into the game of lives and the world of espionage she has so often written about. Her only friend other than her cat, or so she thinks, is agent Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell). Twists and turns as well as familiar faces keep audiences entertained as the plot unfolds to uncover who is the real Agent Argylle.

Starting with the good in the movie: every side character eats up every scene. While it is no beluga whale caviar, the performances fit the film perfectly. Catherine O’Hara is wickedly wonderful in her limited role as the Irma-Bunt-style character. Bryan Cranston brings such intensity to his role as the leader of a rogue agency. Samuel L. Jackson gets paid to shout and be Samuel L. Jackson, and there is no problem with that. And while he sometimes comes across as a bootleg Owen Wilson, the stand-out of the movie has to be Sam Rockwell.

Rockwell is not doing a send-up of James Bond; he instead brings an everyman kind of charm to a traditionally “sexy” role. He does not look like a traditional movie spy, and his character is built around that. Rockwell simultaneously sells the fight scenes one expects from the genre while also imbuing it with the comedy surrounding his character. He gets tired, has trouble taking on multiple combatants and even tweaks his back at one point. Adding to Rockwell’s humor is just the way he is incredibly funny without trying to make the audience laugh. His character Aidan’s relationship with Elly’s cat and his nonchalant attitude about killing people are expertly delivered to be comedic but not overstated.

Additionally, the plot twists in “Argylle” are all jaw-dropping moments that reframe the entire film. They are so subtly set up that they almost seem to come out of nowhere. Small throw-away lines of dialogue come back later in the film and become recontextualized in unexpected ways. The first major twist is filled with such suspenseful tension that it will rock viewers to their core. Once the twists begin to unravel, they keep on coming throughout the rest of the movie. While the sheer number of them can come off as confusing and annoying to some viewers, it is all part of the classic spy film fun Vaughn is known for.

Something else Vaughn is known for is phenomenal action sequences, but those are unfortunately not found here. In his “Kingsman” franchise, Vaughn shoots fight scenes with wide shots and long takes so the audience can fully take in the incredible fight choreography. In “Argylle,” the action does not reach this bar. Due to a story element, the action itself is edited to be a choppy mess. While the choreography in “Kingsman” is hardly believable, it looks cool. During the final fight in “Argylle,” Elly pulls a “Dirty Dancing” and lifts Aidan over her head. No, I am not having the time of my life because it just looks dumb. The rest of that fight goes on like that as the two twist and twirl their enemies to death.

Another lacking element of the fight scenes is the fact Howard cannot sell them. Action scenes can be unbelievable, but the audience should believe the characters can do it. Howard’s character was accomplishing feats that would be impossible for her. Not only that, but the stunt double was egregiously obvious to the point where it was distracting. This makes the fights she is in uninteresting since audiences cannot believe she is taking part in them.

There are two mixed aspects of the film. If audiences are hoping for a Henry Cavill and John Cena spy adventure, they will not find that here. The second mixed aspect is the end credits. While this review will not disclose what it is, it is both frustrating and confusing but sets up another chapter some audience members would love to see.

In the end, “Argylle” is an incredible ride complete with enjoyable performances and shocking twists that audiences should go see in theaters; three out of five stars.

Featured Image Courtesy of Apple TV

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