‘Argylle’ Is Absurd, Ridiculous Fun

Earlier today, a colleague of mine brought up Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle. I asked if he had seen it yet and he said he had not, then quickly added he did not want to know any spoilers. My response to this was, “I couldn’t if I tried.”

With Argylle, I’m fairly certain Matthew Vaughn is trying to set the world record for the most amount of twists one movie can contain. From the advertising, I got the impression I wouldn’t like this movie. I’m always wary of anything approaching an all-star cast. You know, one of those movies that boasts a bunch of great actors, but they are all barely in it and the movie has no actual main characters. Argylle is not that. Argylle‘s main characters are very much Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell (which, come to think of it, might come as a surprise to some peeople). And Argylle is a such a knowingly ridiculous movie that, around 45 minutes in, I had been beaten into delight.

Though I will warn you, if you haven’t cared for Matthew Vaughn’s more recent efforts, it’s unlikely Argylle is going to change that for you. It’s like he pays attention to what his detractors despise, then decides, “Well, what if I gave you more of that.” Argylle is, actually kind of surprisingly, only Vaughn’s eighth movie as a director. His arc is fascinating. Layer Cake is a gritty crime drama starring Daniel Craig that I really enjoyed. Kick-Ass just wasn’t for me, to the point I was disappointed when he was tapped to direct X-Men: First Class – which then became, to this day still, my favorite X-Men movie. And Argylle marks Vaughn’s first non-Kingsmen movie since 2011’s X-Men: First Class.

But it’s since those Kingsmen movies that Vaughn has certainly leaned more and more into the absurd. Hey, do you like fight scenes scored to disco music? Well, Matthew Vaughn is the director for you. And guess what? I do like fight scenes scored to disco music.

Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator: Salvation) plays Elly Conway, a famous author with a series of books about a superspy named Argylle, played by Henry Cavill. When we are watching scenes from the book, we see Cavill as Argylle. When Elly needs insinuation in real-life anxious situations, we see Cavill as Argylle showing up to do just that. (Though, there’s a pretty good chance Cavill isn’t in this movie quite as much as you think he will be.) When Elly’s latest Argylle adventure hits way too close to the actual plans of an evil syndicate – led by Ritter, played by Bryan Cranston (Seinfeld), who is having a great time – her life is now in danger. An actual spy named Aidan, played by Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile), has been sent to protect her and the two go on a globetrotting adventure together (along with Elly’s cat) in an effort to use Elly’s almost psychic intuition to figure out what the evil syndicate even wants. And this is where I have to stop describing the plot because we are getting close to one of the first dozen or so twists in the movie.

Argylle is absurd. Even the way we all have to keep spelling “Argylle” with two “l“s is absurd. (Which, somehow, double checking using “Command F,” I have not misspelled.) There’s a scene in Argylle in which Elly Conway slaps two knives onto her boots so that she can use them as ice skates on oil during a knife fight. (That’s another thing Vaughn does seem to love: an elaborate knife fight.) Also, Elly and Aidan seem to have some deep connection and history with The Beatles song, Now and Then. A song that, if you remember all the hype about “the last Beatles song”, came out two months ago.

I mentioned earlier that it might come as a surprise that Howard and Rockwell were Argylle‘s main characters since Cavill (and Dua Lipa, to a lesser extent) seems to be the focus of the marketing. As much as I like Cavill (he was great playing a spy in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), this came as a welcome surprise to have two actors I admire getting to have a great time in a movie like this. Again, yes, Argylle is an absurd movie. Even the backstory about it being a real book is absurd. But it’s ridiculous fun and impossible to figure out where it’s going. I’m at the point with Matthew Vaughn, whatever absurd ridiculousness he’s selling … I am buying.

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