The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Review: Matthew Vaughn’s “Argylle”: Undercover and underwhelming

Photo via Rotten Tomatoes.

“Argylle” is the latest film directed by one of the most stylistic directors in film today, Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn is best known for his outrageous and in-your-face visual styles and effects that make his previous films and series such as “X-Men: First Class,” “Kick-Ass,” and “Kingsman,” leave such an impression for many youths growing up in the 2000s and 2010s.

“Argylle’’ is similar in vein to the Kingsman franchise, but trades the British espionage flair and rich lore for a mundane, generic, and overblown spy spectacle that borders more on a parody of the genre as a whole. The film gaudily attempts to stand out from other spy and action/adventure films as of late by presenting a unique story-within-a-story approach.

The dashing, womanizing and jet-setting Bond-like spy Aubrey Argylle, played by Henry Cavill, is a famous fictional character from the internationally bestselling book series “Argylle,” written by American author Elly Conway, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Conway is overwhelmed with thoughts on how to end the final book of the series until the introverted cat mom unexpectedly finds herself swept away into living the grand adventures she writes about.

Due to the events of her books, Conway becomes the key to unraveling a global spy syndicate that inadvertently exists in real life, including the real Argylle off the pages. The question is then posed, who is the real Argylle?

“From the sick and twisted mind of Matthew Vaughn” comes his most boring, bland and unimaginative story yet. This story and premise, which feels most suited for teen fantasy, feels like Vaughn was neutered compared to his previous films such as “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” which had spectacular displays of violence still talked about today.

The film is rated PG-13 and the viewer can feel it, with the film pulling back every punch and each bullet feeling more like a Nerf dart. While this director is not one to shy away from silliness, this film was his “Thor: Love and Thunder” moment, where he wanted to put more emphasis on comedy rather than action and sophistication. I am a proud cat lover and the trailer included so many scenes promoting the furry friend. However, this is actually all of the scenes.

The film attempts to have a “Mission: Impossible” pastiche, but instead suffers from the M. Night Shyamalan trap of twists and turns in an attempt to keep viewers on their toes — only to fall face-flat after tripping in its own web of deception. One of the only saving graces of the film is the chemistry between Howard and Sam Rockwell, making the film more akin to a rom-com at times. The problem with this is that most people did not come into this film expecting a romantic comedy: they wanted an action film.

Most of the cast were made of industry veterans and even a current pop star. Some, like John Cena, Cavill, Rockwell, and Samuel L. Jackson are no strangers to action and bombastic CGI-filled movies. Sadly, this is the biggest waste of Jackson in recent memory, second to his performance in Marvel’s “Secret Invasion.”

The film also stars Academy Award-winner Ariana DeBose, who should fire her agent after a massive string of flops for her. While it is glorious to see Howard return to the screen, I feel she is suited to direct a better spy film than this one, especially after her experience directing episodes of “The Mandalorian.”

Cavill, the unluckiest man in Hollywood right now due to his most prominent roles being recast, is again underutilized as he is relegated to small and quick scenes that show the fictional Argylle’s bravado in comparison to Howard’s naiveté in the espionage community.

Cena is in this film so little, you don’t even see him. Sofia Boutella, a rising star in Hollywood, is also heavily wasted as she barely gets any lines or action. I hope she also fires her agent, because Zack Snyder’s “Rebel Moon” is not doing her any favors. Bryan Cranston plays a cartoon-style villain, but is also underutilized, which is sad because he knows how to toe the line between Walter White and a Hanna-Barbera villain. Catherine O’Hara is also in the film and delivers an interesting yet hilarious role while being one of the most complex characters in the film. Finally, while Sam Rockwell proves again that he is a master class in action and wisecracking, his best performance in a spy film remains the 2000 classic “Charlie’s Angels.”

One of the film’s biggest marketing gimmicks was when the novelization of the film was released under the pen name Elly Conway. For some reason, this led many to believe that the actual author of “Argylle” was Taylor Swift, due to her love of owning Scottish fold cats and her playing a redheaded writer in the ‘’All Too Well’’ short film. Swift may have written “Me!”, but I would take that more than this film.

It was painful, not just because of the hype, but also because of the pedigree the director had before this film. This film flopping is not a matter of Apple being the film’s financier, but Vaughn needs a new hit on his hands to earn the right to say he is “sick” and “twisted” on the same level as James Gunn, rather than Sam Levinson.

This film receives 2 paws out of 5.

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