I could watch two Channing Tatum movies in The Vow and The Lost City and get this same movie while having a more rewarding viewing experience and I would absolutely rather watch two consecutive Channing Tatum movies than ever experience Argylle again. 

That is to say, unfortunately Matthew Vaughn has officially become a director of diminishing returns. Out of the gate, Vaughn only continued to improve with each of his first five features. In his first (seemingly) original film since 2014 after making three films in the same universe and launching a third franchise with Argylle clearly intended to be a fourth (even though that definitely won't happen), it would seem Vaughn has finally hit a career low. While this would seem to indicate he can only go up from here, this winking hodgepodge of a meta-comedy, action caper lets us know early on what we're in for when it becomes clear just how little Vaughn is invested in the construction of the film by the placement of the title card. Why would you not at least save it until after the worst looking high speed car chase in history? 

Written by Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) and including such classic dialogue as, “You and I, we’re not so different…” it is important to stay aware of the film's intent as Argylle unravels (pun fully intended). The point being, there is no intention or ideas outside of being "big" entertainment. Not even pure entertainment because if that were the case this would have been half an hour shorter, but in keeping with the "big" part of being entertaining this is nearly two and a half hours and absolutely doesn't need to be. Had they streamlined some of this overly convoluted nonsense it might have actually resonated simply as entertaining and fun, but it instead becomes a laughable (as in definitely laughing at and now with) slog. Even worse, a lot of the admittedly inventive action set pieces would be really clever and genuinely funny if they didn’t look like complete shit. I just can't understand how Vaughn's modern action sequences are so much uglier than the outright classics he was concocting ten and fifteen years ago?

Like, the Leona Lewis bit during the (first) climactic shootout is too much, but I kind of appreciated how big of a swing it was even if it plays more cringy than cheeky. Speaking of musical choices, the use of Patrick Cowley's "Do You Wanna Funk?" is the diamond in the rough here and a perfect backdrop to Sam Rockwell's introductory action scene; setting a promising tone that the rest of the movie is never able to fully deliver on. The Ariana DeBose (who is laughably in this for a cumulative 35 seconds), Boy George, and Nile Rodgers collaboration "Electric Energy" is another fun track utilized well as are the Barry White and aforementioned Lewis song even if the sequences they are set to go more and more belly up. None of this is as baffling as the choice to include that new, "thanks to A.I." Beatles track "Now and Then" which was only released this past November but serves as a key plot point in this movie, a movie that wrapped principal photography in January of 2022. 

Secret Agent Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell) and author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) embark on a convoluted adventure in Argylle.
Photo by Courtesy of Universal Pictures - © Universal Pictures

Vaughn is not a director who shys away from big swings though, and in the past this has worked out for him more than it hasn't, but Argylle is him losing his edge. He's getting older (he's currently 52) and it's clear what he thinks is cool simply can't keep up with the culture and his level of filmmaking has suffered as a result of the ease modern technology has brought to his doorstep. My guy loves an extreme close-up and is arguably the king of a good transition shot, but while there are a few notable ones here and his style is on full display through the cross-cutting of all the dialogue between Rockwell and Henry Cavill's character as Bryce Dallas Howard's brain plays tricks on her, it is completely undone by the fact we can tell Cavill shot every single one of his scenes for this movie in a single day on the same soundstage. Additionally, the fucking "whirlybird" is a stupid idea with laughably bad execution, but could have passed as a credible, self-aware joke if it was shot like that was the aim. 

There are strong, quality elements in play within this film...don't get me wrong. Some of the writing is actually really clever to the point it's begging to be a better movie. For instance, I absolutely questioned why our author protagonist's mom (Catherine O'Hara) would have a framed cover of her daughter’s book hanging in her kitchen, but this is accounted for in the multiple reveals the movie plays out. The casting of the 55 year-old Rockwell also feels inspired as he not only plays against type in this actual movie, but against type in the world of the movie itself. In fact, Argylle almost feels like it gets on track and is full steam ahead when Rockwell eventually shows up yet despite it finding some groove in the latter half of the first act and through the middle it eventually folds in on itself so many times and goes on for so much longer than necessary that the fun this should and wants to inspire simply becomes exhaustion.

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