Review: Argylle


2024 has gotten off to a rough start. January barely had any notable releases outside of a mediocre remake of a comedy classic, a Jason Statham movie that has also been getting middling reviews, and a movie about a killer pool. Yup, it’s January alright, but now we’re in February and things should be getting off to a better start with a new Matthew Vaughn movie, Argylle!

I think it’s safe to say that by this point, Matthew Vaughn as a director is at least somewhat reliable when it comes to action movies. He earned a lot of goodwill from me for Kickass, X-Men First Class, and of course, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and seeing him branch out into more original fare is interesting. Or at the very least, it should be, if Argylle wasn’t an aggressively boring movie in virtually every way. This is easily the worst movie Vaughn has ever directed by a huge margin.

Argylle | Official Trailer

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Release Date: February 2, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

Argylle is a popular series of spy novels written by a reclusive author named Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). After writing the fifth book in the series and struggling to come up with a satisfying ending for it, she encounters a real-world spy named Aidan (Sam Rockwell) who alerts her that all of the events she’s written about are actually real and a secret organization named “The Division” are hunting her because she can seemingly predict the future. Elly obviously doesn’t believe that, but after she’s attacked on a train, she begrudgingly acknowledges Aidan and does whatever she can to help him find an encrypted key that can expose all members of the Division to the world, including their leader, played by Bryan Cranston. So it’s up to Elly and Aidan to go on a globetrotting adventure to stop the Division before they capture Elly for their own nefarious ends.

While the plot on the surface seems to be fairly easy to follow, it very quickly descends into a convoluted mess. Argylle is incredibly intent on trying to drop plot twist after plot twist to hopefully keep viewers engaged, but it all becomes way too much way too quickly. The first twist is dropped about an hour into the movie, but then in the exact same scene another twist is thrown at the viewer, then the next scene gives us another twist, and so on until the plot becomes so complex that you start to forget how everything connects. The trailer portrays Argylle as being a lighthearted spy-thriller much like Vaughn’s previous works, but it takes itself too seriously with all of these over-the-top twists that a lot of the joy just isn’t there.

It’s all frankly impressive how the film leaves virtually no impact on the viewer. Typically, action movies tend to have some flash and excitement in their action scenes, or at the very least some memorable setpiece that audiences will remember. Case in point, when people think of THE moment from Kingsman: The Secret Service, it’s probably the church scene where “Freebird” blares as brutal action is shown on screen. There is no “it” moment here. All of the action scenes feel tame and dull with very little in the way of creative fight choreography or even good sound design. I rarely talk about a movie’s sound as I don’t feel like I’m the most qualified to talk about that particular category, but blows don’t have the crunch you would expect them to. Even the film’s climax comes across as weak since none of the blows deliver the impact that they should. As an action film, Argylle just doesn’t work.

Review: Argylle

Copyright: Apple

But then you have a lot of just weird decisions Vaughn and crew made that I have no idea what to make of. For example, the film makes extensive use of the latest Beatles song “Now and Then,” which was restored from a John Lennon demo reel from the ’70s, polished up, given guitar tracks from George Harrison in the ’90s when he was playing around with the song, then finalized by Paul and Ringo and released last November. I bring all of this up because in the movie, two characters regard how they’ve loved the song for years and how it was “their song” which just makes absolutely no logical sense when you think about it for a fraction of a second.

Even our two leads leave a lot to be desired. Bryce Dallas Howard starts off being an annoying mess of a character who complains about virtually everything, though she does eventually grow and become more confident in herself. She’s still annoying in several areas, but she evolves into being tolerable as she becomes more used to this world of espionage. Sam Rockwell, at first, is fun and exciting, mostly due to a wonderful introduction where he comes across as a happy-go-lucky killer who’s having an absolute blast murdering people as a spy. But then his character shifts shortly afterward into being an unpleasant jerk who always complains about Elly and her discomfort with the whole situation she’s in. And the film expects us to root for these two characters as they fall in love with each other. I just don’t buy any chemistry the film is trying to develop between the two and lord knows the movie spends a whole lot of time trying to do that, including going so far as to give them a montage towards the end.

As far as the rest of the cast goes, they come across as glorified cameos. Henry Cavill, who looks like a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure reject, portrays the fictionalized Argylle and just serves as a voice in Elly’s head, commenting on situations here and there. John Cena, Arianna DeBose, Samuel L Jackson, and Dua Lipa are all featured in a scene or two and hardly factor into the plot. They feel like they’re just there to serve as a name on the poster, which is probably why the film cost $200 million to produce. It certainly wasn’t that expensive for the CGI, which is noticeably poor. The first scene of the film features a rooftop chase scene in Greece and it’s especially bad as Henry Cavill bops around in a car that doesn’t even look like it’s there.

Review: Argylle

Copyright: Apple

As far as positives go, they’re few and far between. Yes, the plot is excessively complex to a confusing degree, but the core concept is fine enough and it leads to some slightly entertaining fish-out-of-water sequences for Elly early on. And again, that train scene where Sam Rockwell is able just to let loose and have fun is probably the best scene of the movie. Personally, the first half hour is the best part since those early scenes don’t take themselves too seriously and the film leans into the fun and goofiness of an author being thrust into a world right out of one of her mediocre spy novels. There’s some inherent comedy there, but Argylle doesn’t want to have fun, at least in the way that Vaughn’s other films never took themselves too seriously. The film goes all in on being a send-up of spy movies like the James Bond franchise but instead comes across as a cheap imitation of the genre.

As Argylle plodded along, all I could think about was how nothing I was watching was even remotely entertaining. Vaughn is a director who knows how to shoot a good action scene, but none of them ever came across as satisfying, mostly due to the poor sound design, CGI, and fight choreography. Most of the cast doesn’t have much to do over the agonizing two-hour and twenty-minute runtime, and the leads never gel together in a meaningful way. Argylle was meant to be light-hearted and fun, but instead, it comes across as a chore to watch. Once the credits start to roll and you realize that Vaughn is all in on making more Argylle movies and connecting them with his other films, you’ll probably start to dread any and all future entries in this dead-on-arrival franchise. Then again, given how this film needs about half a billion to break even, I don’t think we have much to worry about.




Argylle does a fine enough job of presenting an entertaining spy thriller... for its first half hour. After that, the convoluted plot, unlikeable characters, and tame action rob this film of any and all potential.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.