Argylle (2024) – Film Review
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Worthington, Henry Cavill
By Roger Crow
Remember the old Ronnie Corbett gags which started off as a simple joke but took a meandering route to get to the punchline? Imagine 90 minutes of that and you get the latest epic from Matthew Vaughn. Nine years ago, after fantasies like Stardust and X-Men First Class, he really struck gold with The King’s Man, which had a relatively simple Pygmalion-meets-James Bond quality. Aside from terrific action scenes and a winning, star-making turn from Taron Egerton, it was everything 2015’s Spectre should have been and wasn’t.
Alas, two hit-and-miss Kingsman follow-ups have led to Argylle, an early candidate to sweep the boards at the Razzies 2025. Following that OTT opener set in Santorini with Dua Lipa as a convincing femme fatale, gritty reality goes out the window. (Sorry Dua fans. She’s in in for all of 10 mins, despite her prominence on the poster).
“Outrageous set pieces”
Anyway, we discover Bryce Dallas Howard is the prim and proper flame-haired author whose Argylle spy novels have won legions of besotted fans. She’s about to put the latest one to bed but her mother (Catherine O’Hara) thinks it needs more work.
While on a train with her cat in a backpack, she encounters Sam Worthington’s bearded, shaggy haired individual who claims to be a spy. Thanks to a conceit in which Henry Cavill plays her eponymous hero, we cut between him doing stunts and Worthington. Which is fine in short bursts, but we get no end of quick cuts from one to the other. Annoying.
Now l’ll suspend my disbelief with most things, but when our heroine falls asleep in Worthington’s car in the UK and wakes up in France, that’s when alarm bells start ringing.
What follows is a sugar rush of outrageous set pieces, typically balletic stunts, some bad CGI, and some occasionally funny moments. Oh, and there’s a scene involving oil and makeshift ice skates which begs all kind of questions, like why is there so little oil on the heroine?
“Subtle as a rhino”
Bryan Cranston and Samuel L Jackson also star in a movie which owes a debt to SLJ’s sublime The Long Kiss Goodnight, but is about as subtle as a rhino in a gold dress rampaging through a china shop.
The use of The Beatles’ final tune ‘Now and Then’ is also a curious one, as it was supposed to be the beloved song of two key protagonists, but as it was only released last year, it feels far too new in its finished form. And don’t get me started on that cheesy action scene set to Light Up, which used those multi-coloured clouds pioneered in The King’s Man.
Argylle was slated by one broadsheet, and though not a one-star movie, it’s generous to give it three out of five. The comic book tone is fun, but the narrative is all over the place with a meta hero that deserved his own movie without the angst-ridden heroine.
Brains in neutral, expect little, and it works small wonders.