Kingsmen series director Matthew Vaughn is back with another kicky little spy comedy, this time set in America, and full of silly little moments that sap any credibility from its trailers’ insistence the filmmaker has a twisted mind at every turn.
Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) plays writer Elly Conway, a spy fiction novelist nearing the end of a series of bestsellers about a secret agent named Argylle (played in fictional vignettes by The Witcher star Henry Cavill). She has writer’s block something fierce, however, so she books a trip home to see her mom (Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek) whom, we learn, has helped her daughter work out her stories in the past.
The thing is, Conway’s books are oddly prescient, or at least chock full of things that actually happened amongst real-world spies, and a clandestine organization of killers and geo-political movers and shakers has taken notice. They believe her next book might even hold the key to locating a damning file stolen by a British hacker who went missing. This is where Sam Rockwell comes in—as a spy named Aidan Wilde (ugh, they could have just named him Spy Spyerson) who vows to protect Conway while tapping into the research-obsessed part of her writer’s brain. Cue globe-traipsing espionage with Conway’s Scottish fold Alfie.
Argylle has a twist, of course, and maybe even more than one, but despite the gentleman in the screening who sincerely gasped at one of the rapid-fire a-ha moments littered throughout Vaughn’s latest, each one feels more movie-ish than the last. Where Argylle does tread some interesting ground is in its insistence that spies don’t run around in tailored suits looking handsome as hell so much as they blend into the crowd with unremarkable characteristics. Makes sense.
Rockwell here hits some of his Rockwelliest combinations of stoner-lite and silly, against which Howard’s decidedly unfunny performance lags. Bryan Cranston appears as the leader of the shadowy organization after Conway. Sadly, he and O’Hara languish in the land of the one-dimensional caricature throughout the movie while Samuel L. Jackson only pops in long enough to be like, “Lemme just fill in the rest of the exposition. Bye.”
Oh, also, Alfie the cat literally winks at one point during a particularly cringey scene. This, in a nutshell, describes Argylle rather well: It’s not very funny, it smacks of secondhand embarrassment and not even the ever-charming John Cena’s too-brief appearance as another of Conway’s fictional spies can do anything to stop it. We’ll forget this one by the summer, probably.
+Spy movies are always a little fun
-Not funny enough to lampoon the spy genre, not serious enough to matter
Directed by Vaughn
With Howard, Rockwell, Cranston, O’Hara, Jackson and Cena
Violet Crown, Regal, PG-13, 139 min.