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Review: 'Argylle''

Director Matthew Vaughn has certainly carved out a niche for himself when it comes to fast-paced, high energy action films.  The list includes: Kick-Ass (2010), X-Men: First Class (2011), Kingsman: The Secret Service(2014), and The King’s Man (2021). 

He’s a master of glossy, glitzy, adrenaline-fueled, action-packed fare that is usually a bit over-the-top, but audience-pleasingly entertaining.

Argylle is no exception.  He knows what his fans expect, and he delivers.

The story is about Elly Conway, a slightly-frumpy, reclusive cat lady (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) whose series of spy novels are immensely successful.  She’s on the verge of completing her latest installment when her mother (Catherine O’Hara) weighs in, suggesting that it needs a better ending.

Elly boards a train to meet with mom, setting in motion an incredible series of events reminiscent of the James Bond franchise, the Mission Impossible franchise, and the Kingsmen movies.

She encounters a bearded scruffy bearded guy on the train (Aidan Wilde, played by Sam Rockwell) who turns out to be a highly skilled secret agent, when he suddenly springs into action minutes after meeting Elly, fighting off a small army of assassins.  The fight scenes on a moving train are still fresh in our minds since the release of Bullet Train (2022) starring Brad Pitt, which was essentially one prolonged fight scene on a speeding train.

There is a lot of borrowed material in Argylle.

Elly soon discovers that some really evil people want to track her down due to the fact that the plots of her novels mysteriously parallel events in the real-life world of spies and mega villains.

They want to know what she knows.

Following the frenzied fight on the train, Elly and Aiden (and Elly’s beloved cat, Alfie) make their escape, Mission Impossible-style, by deploying a parachute.  Alfie is pretty much along for the ride throughout the movie, being toted around in a glass-domed backpack, much like the one used by superstar diva Taylor Swift.

There was speculation about Taylor Swift’s involvement in the movie Argylle, due to her affinity for argyle in her wardrobe as well as her pet cat and cat carrier.

We live in the age of Taylor Swift, whose pop diva life spills over into everything from Hollywood moviemaking to the NFL and the Superbowl.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers as much as possible, let’s just say the plot of Argylle is a Russian Doll of storylines within storylines within storylines.

On one level, it’s the story of Elly’s fictional characters, Argylle (played by Henry Cavill, doing his best 007) and Argylle’s partner Wyatt (played by John Cena), Dua Lipa pops up as a Bond-type femme fatale in an elaborate dance sequence followed by an Indiana Jones style motorcycle and car chase down some treacherously steep terrain.

The action is non-stop and splashy—Matthew Vaughn’s trademark.  The visuals are eye-poppingly colorful and slick, sometimes harkening back to the glory days of technicolor, as evidenced in a shootout that takes place within banks of thickly colored smoke.

As with Vaughn’s previous work, the action is occasionally outrageous such as a scene staged in a warehouse on a floor several inches deep in spilled black oil, in which the characters skate around on make-shift ice skates.  It’s fun, but it’s totally ridiculous, for a prolonged period of time.

The cast of Argylle is part of the draw.  Beside the aforementioned actors, it also features Bryan Cranston as the villain mastermind and Samuel L. Jackson in the role that he frequently plays, namely the head of the organization of good guys (I’m referring to the Marvel movies).  Both guys are perfectly, though predictably cast. 

Kingsmen fans will love Argylle.  There is a lot to like, despite the fact that it runs a little long and occasionally strays into the realm of excessiveness and outright silliness.  Writers and directors these days seem to be oblivious to the mistakes that are made when they step over the line, creatively.

They should set the limits and parameters of the story and work within those limits, even when the genre is comedy/action/thriller.  Too much is often too much. And it can leave the audience rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.




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