Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Argylle: A Review



Ah, the curse of modern-day filmmaking. Argylle, the new action-comedy from Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn, was crafted to be the first part of a trilogy leading up to a shared cinematic universe with the Kingsman films. Should the teased-at prequel and future Argylle films actually come about, it might signal more than the dearth of current cinematic output. It might signal the End of Western Civilization itself. 

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is promoting her newest novel of her superspy Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill). Her creation, essentially the illegitimate son of Jack Reacher and James Bond, is on his fifth adventure, but Elly cannot find a proper conclusion to her saga. Turning to her mother Ruth (Catherine O'Hara) for help, Elly decides a visit home will help her through the writer's block.

To her surprise and horror, she finds herself in a real spy caper when Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell), seemingly an Argylle fan but in reality a superspy himself, saves her from a group of hitmen. He then tells her that her novels appear to predict future acts of espionage, so a shadowy organization named The Division sent goons to abduct her. Now she must help in solving the mystery of how she can be so accurate and a threat to The Division.

Division Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston) has a few tricks up his own sleeve to not just capture Elly but his arch nemesis, Alfred Solomon better known as Alfie (Samuel L. Jackson). Why does Alfie have the same name as her beloved cat? Well, no surprise: Elly Conway is the Real Agent Argylle! Alfie and Aiden reveal she was superspy Rachel Kylle or R. Kylle from which she subconsciously derived the name "Argylle". 

Rachel had been brainwashed into thinking that Ruth and Ritter were her real parents, with her novels being a way for her repressed memories to reveal information the Division monitored. However, her fifth and final Argylle novel was on the verge of revealing what the Division was after. Now using her emerging skills, Rachel/Elly joins forces with her love interest Aidan and Alfie to bring the Division down. Or does she? More twists and turns emerge until at last, things come to a successful conclusion.

Or do they? We find that at her most recent book reading promoting her concluding Argylle novel, a man looking very much like Argylle appears, with a mid-credit scene threatening an Argylle: Book One: The Movie coming soon.

Argylle is such a disaster of epic proportions that one watches not even in disbelief or shame that people would possibly imagine the public crying out for more Argylle films. Rather, one watches with a mixture of boredom, frustration and downright anger that audiences were bombarded with this abomination. It is not often when one can watch a film collapse before their very eyes, but that is what we got with Argylle.

It is as if everyone involved: cast, crew, perhaps even catering services, was dead-set on making an epic fiasco. Every decision made was so spectacularly wrong, every segment so wildly misguided in every way imaginable that it is a competition as to what element is the most disastrous.

I think the winner of that competition is Jason Fuch's screenplay. At a shocking two-hour-nineteen minute runtime, Argylle goes all over the place and never bothers to make sense. My own sense is that the film is so set on building up a grand cinematic universe that it does not bother setting up a single movie. Argylle thinks it is setting up great twists and turns, but it only ends up being a rambling, incoherent mess. Far too clever by half, Argylle just does not make sense.

There are small things, such as when for unknown reasons Elly calls her neighbor so that said neighbor can pass the phone call to her mother. I do not know how the relationship between Elly's family and the neighbor is to where Elly has his telephone number, let alone be confident enough to know he'd pass on the call to Ruth. Then there are large things, such as how someone could apparently get shot and killed only to pop up very much alive because the assassin hit the target at exactly the right spot so as to not kill them.

From beginning to end, Argylle thinks it is clever and witty when in reality it is stupid to downright insane.

The performances are also not there. The closest to a performance is Rockwell, whom is desperately trying to sell the comedic aspects of Argylle. However, he and Bryce Dallas Howard have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. The idea that these two could be or had ever been lovers is laughable; the vaguely hinted-at romance between Argylle and Wiley's stand-in Wyatt (John Cena) is more believable. As much as Rockwell tries, he cannot make what is meant as witty banter between him and Elly remotely good. 

That, to be fair, is more on Howard than Rockwell. Her delivery was unspeakably bad at just about every turn. Perhaps she was smart enough to see that the dialogue was dreadful, though not smart enough not to have accepted the role. In both versions: meek Elly and allegedly girl-boss R. Kylle, she is horrendous.

I have long argued that Henry Cavill cannot act. He is beautiful to look at, but has no skills in creating characters. Argylle should be a perfect showcase for Cavill's thorough lack of acting skills. The character is meant to be stiff, dull and totally blank. Somehow, Cavill can't even manage to make a nonentity like Agent Argylle come across as the exaggerated farce he is. I have to imagine Agent Argylle is meant to be dim and pointless, for I cannot imagine the character presented would be interesting enough for one book, let alone a whole series. 

Cranston and Jackson were just cashing checks and not bothering with anything. The most unfortunate person here is O'Hara. She is a genuine talent and brilliant comedienne, so to see her wasted by Vaughn in this is sad. 

Vaughn cannot get past his old tricks, such as staging overblown action/fight scene with music. Why exactly he chose Sylvester's disco hit Do Ya Wanna Funk? for the bullet train fight one can only guess at. He's done this sort of thing before: wild, overblown, frenetic action sequences. However, in Argylle, they were dull and thoroughly fake-looking. Throwing in more smoke that shifts into hearts is not clever or funny. It's just dull and stupid. 

Argylle has nothing to recommend it. Absolutely nothing. No acting. No action. No humor. No heart. The cat is out of the luggage: Argylle is one of the worst if not worst film of 2024 if not among the worst of all time.

God Help Us All if they force another Argylle film on us. If for any reason we do have to endure another Argylle horror, Matthew Vaughn should make as its theme song what the audience is feeling: Pet Shop Boys' What Have I Done to Deserve This?

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