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The Unoriginality of Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle (2024)

Argylle movie poster

I love action movies. I love the explosions, shootouts and all the ass-kicking and traditional macho-ness that you often see in these films. But, there’s just one problem I have with action movies. What is that you may ask? They’re often boring as a bag of bricks. You see, every once in a while, the action genre experiences a re-invention, and within the next decade or so, every action movie just tries to copy that formula. Some are successful, while most are not. And none better embodies that better than Matthew Vaughn’s latest project, Argylle.

Elly Conway (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a successful author writing an acclaimed book series on the fictional Agent Argylle (played by Henry Cavill), who is written to be a pseudo James Bond. After she submits her fifth and latest manuscript to her mother, who also happens to be her editor, she claims the ending sucks and needs to be revised. On a train ride back home, Elly runs into Aidan (played by Sam Rockwell), who claims to be a real life secret agent and tells her that the books she’s writing are actually real events. On cue, she gets attacked by multiple men whom Aidan swiftly incapacitates. Now on the run from an evil organization led by the enigmatic and dangerous Director Ritter (played by Bryan Cranston), Aidan brings Elly to his boss, Alfred Solomon (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who introduces Elly to the real Agent Argylle.  

Henry Cavill and Dua Lipa in Argylle

When I first saw the trailers for Argylle, I was pretty excited. It had all of Matthew Vaughn’s signature storytelling elements and visual cues. So come February, I bought a ticket and anxiously waited in my seat as the movie began. But when the credits rolled, I was left feeling rather empty and frustrated. So this begs the question: what went wrong? Well, a lot. Let’s start with the promotional posters. They feature Henry Cavill, John Cena and Dua Lipa as the main stars. The reality? All three get mere minutes of screen time. Cavill has around 8 minutes, Cena maybe 5 minutes and Dua Lipa is only in it for a grand total of 2 minutes! You know who the real main actors are? Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell, both who are seen in the back of the posters. I guess this was done to subvert our expectations, but the film does this oh-so poorly. Which brings me to the next part: the twist.

During the trailers, we are frequently asked “who is the real Agent Argylle?” Before you jump to any conclusions, let me just say that the real twist is far dumber than anything you can think of. So, just who is the real Agent Argylle? It’s Elly. No kidding, it turns out that she was a secret agent who after getting into an accident which left her comatose, was brainwashed by Director Ritter (who masqueraded as her dad) to believe that she was an author. And her real name? Rachel Kyle. Agent R. Kyle. Get it now? God, this movie is so dumb. Did M. Night Shyamalan sneak into the directing chair while Matthew Vaughn was on lunch?  

Elly Conway in Argylle

The trailers presented the film as a rom-com starring regular folk that just so happen to be trapped in an action setting. And while I did get what I expected, it was only on the surface. Argylle tries to be a comedic action flick that satirizes the action genre while also trying to play itself straight. And there lies the problem: you really can’t do both. Remember what I said about action movies lacking originality? After The Matrix, every action movie featured bullet time, then the revenge thrillers became huge after Taken was a success. And within the last decade, every action movie had to emulate the neo-noir aesthetic and gritty choreography of John Wick. Now, the latest trend in action films in Hollywood revolves around self-aware humor poking fun at classic action tropes found in film. And Argylle does that to a letter. But that also highlights a major issue I have with the film: it really feels like every action film I’ve seen in the past year or two. You could easily consider Argylle a poor man’s version of The Lost City or Bullet Train. Towards the third act, Vaughn tries to spice things up with very creatively shot action sequences that harken back to his Kingsman movies, but it still feels more like a distraction from the film’s unoriginality than actually entertaining action.

Aidan and Elly in Argylle

The only saving grace of the film is in its acting. Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell truly do feel like partners in crime (hopefully not literally), with Rockwell stealing almost every scene he’s in. From teaching Elly how easy it is to crush a human skull (just do the salsa), to nearly breaking his own back after performing a German suplex on a bad guy, he proves time and time again how much of a versatile actor he is. And even though they didn’t get a lot of screen time, I have to commend Henry Cavill and Samuel L. Jackson in their respective roles. Cavill proves he has endless charisma with the few scenes he’s in, effortlessly bouncing off his co-stars (specifically with Cena) and energizing whatever action sequence he’s in. Finally, Samuel L. Jackson as Alfred Solomon is having the time of his life. A frequent collaborator with Vaughn, Jackson breathes life in the movie at a point where I almost walked out. So hey, that’s got to be something. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Bryan Cranston as Director Ritter. Cranston has been typecast in villainous roles after his villainous debut in Breaking Bad. Despite checking off all the technical boxes, he doesn’t make Ritter memorable or complex. Rather, he just feels like a run-of-the-mill corporate bad guy. You could have Ritter literally be a mannequin and the movie would still be the same.   

All-in-all, Argylle is the epitome of unoriginality within the realm of action movies. There were no real surprises and no real stakes, with the main villain’s goals being more generic than a second-rate Bond villain. Despite some good performances from the cast and some creative action scenes, there just wasn’t enough to keep me invested in the movie or the characters. Hell, I wanted to doze off a few times but couldn’t due to drinking too much coffee! You can argue that Argylle is meant to be enjoyed if you turn your brain off, but if that’s the case, you could literally watch paint dry if you turn your brain off. As a fan of Matthew Vaughn’s previous films, I really wanted to like this movie. But after giving it a watch, I just couldn’t see anything that was substantial enough to stand out on its own. If you want a movie that balances romance, comedy and over the top action, just go watch The Lost City. At least you won’t be staring at the clock wondering when the movie will end. 

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