A big action-blockbuster comedy with a big A-list talent pool seems ripe for summer releases. Still, the new colorful big-budget spy film Argylle would rather not wait to compete with others and is making a statement early in the year. The mind of Matthew Vaughn is alive and well in Argylle, however, some brutal elements are missing from this action-flick that would make it memorable and more enjoyable than it is. With Sam Rockwell’s charm and watching Samuel L. Jackson have a ball with John Cena and Henry Cavill, this action vehicle is a good bit of fun. But if this is to serve as the first film in a planned trilogy, there are plenty of mistakes that need to be corrected going forward.
The narrative behind this massive $200 million budget spy film is a ton of fun where Agent Argylle is an extremely skilled spy, protecting the world from villains, much like how 007 James Bond seems to always have a plan in place and successfully executes every obstacle and bad guy in his path. The original caveat here is that none of Agent Argylle is real and is actually being written by an author of a highly praised book series that follows this titular agent and his escapades – or is there some reality-based aspect that is going on under the surface? This is where Matthew Vaughn succeeds with Jason Fuchs’ screenplay which has tons of twists and turns throughout the movie. These never seem to be the core point either, but rather to serve up some big surprises that will conjure up audible gasps from its audience.
Plus, the editing of revealing what this author named Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is seeing in her mind and what her reality is showcasing is brilliant. When Sam Rockwell is a real agent, but she sees her fictitious creation of her literary agent Henry Cavill is beyond funny. The contrast of her fantasy versus real-life plays for some excellent gags and that’s where the real genuine sequences come in. Plus Rockwell is one of the most charming on-screen actors ever, even if he’s a nazi (Jojo Rabbit). Rockwell as an artist is always fully aware and brings a unique charisma to the craft of acting, even in this big-budget movie where he’s supposed to be a legit James Bond type of action star, but can throw on the comedic chops in a flash and even support a romantic relationship.
But there are some aggravating factors in Argylle. One is that the film is 2.5 hours long and feels even longer. The pacing is not exactly quick in certain spots where a good chunk of the film could be left on the cutting room floor for various reasons that are not central to the plot. But when the comedy and action beats get going, the film flies by. Another element is that Matthew Vaughn keeps himself in R-rated territory. With his Kingsman movies and the Kick-Ass franchise, or even Snatch and Layer Cake, Vaughn has a relationship with his audience to keep things violent, fun, and bloody, specifically when it comes to these films. But not arguing with the studios enough landed Argylle with a PG-13 rating and it suffers miserably from it since there are some amazing action sequences that really require blood, gore, and fun. It’s just simply not here at the moment and it hinders the overall tone and entertainment value of the film, especially during a sequence that involves tons of knives and guns where everyone is being slashed and cut up, but there is nothing to show for it to make it believable.
Argylle shows a lot of great effort in a potentially amazing trilogy of movies that not only knows how to have a great time in this spy genre but by showcasing the magnificent visuals of Vaughn and his cinematographer George Richmond. Bryan Cranston and Catherine O’Hara are serviceable as well, but the real spotlight is on Rockwell. Howard does a good job of playing the straight-and-narrow character this time around, but hopefully, in the sequel, she will be allowed to play around with her character more. Argylle is a good time with quite a few laughs, but please, let’s bump this up to an R-rating and tighten the screws in the script the next go around.