‘Argylle’ Review: A Parody Within a Parody

In an age of blockbusters with questionable creative motives being pumped out, year-by-year, ‘Argylle’ is worse than just about all of them.

Matthew Vaughn has a reputation for his specific brand of awe; candy-coated mania dripping with excitement and exploding in color. At least he did, prior to Argylle. This film is a different beast altogether, one made up of shades only found within the basically nonexistent layers of gray in concrete, or perhaps ash. It represents a near-parody what once was (as in, just a few short years ago with the surprisingly solid The King’s Man,) and a hopeless promise for what is to come. Argylle is dead on arrival, and unfortunately for all involved, it can’t be forgotten; there is an example to be made here.

This is what happens when the people making a movie underestimate the people who watch them. In this case, such an overlook is surprising; Vaughn has proven capable of appropriately complex, unorthodox storytelling with his Kingsman trilogy. 

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Yet here, a layered story is traded in for an overlong linear one, which appears complicated only because it is confusing, and messy. Over 139 minutes, Argylle pitches twist after twist in an effort to make the whole thing seem more impressive, more interesting, than it actually is. In reality, this script is essentially strung between beats of sub-par action (we’ll get to that) and suffocating loads of exposition. Said strings are so thin that they may as well not exist at all; there is very little happening, beyond the repetitive quips and gags, ever.

Further, it all looks as bland as it sounds. The opening sequence is perhaps the most dire example in the film; a scene that, without spoilers, was pushed as the crux of every trailer and teaser prior to release, is delivered with almost no variety in visual language at all. It, like the rest of the film, is lit like a stage play and framed like a college composition project. Shot, reverse shot, repeat. The scene eventually tries to break out and take a swing, only to cap itself immediately out of the gate with an overuse of unbelievably lackluster special effects. Even the green screen here is improper; it’s a total wash, across the board.

And those aforementioned action sequences? They hardly feel like Matthew Vaughn. Clumsy, committee-approved ballets of monotone color and misplaced cuts that set this film apart in the exact opposite manner that Vaughn’s previous works have. It cannot be overstated how out of character this entire thing, and this aspect specifically, are for the filmmaker. There are a few promising glimpses in the finale, but even then, nothing here comes remotely close to making his cinematic highlight reel. 

Argylle wants to sell itself as a tongue-in-cheek spy thriller, but in the constant curveballs, it falls victim to the very thing it was trying to play off of. The film slowly becomes the spy movie equivalent of the gangster-crime parody that plays on the television in Home Alone, only it has been released as a full length feature, in theaters. The concept isn’t the issue; the spy genre has some of the most recognizable and widely appreciated tendencies in all of cinema. But the execution is so jumbled and misaligned that, by the end, you’ll completely forget what it was trying to do in the first place. The film is lost in itself, so convinced by its own prospect from the beginning that it forgets it has to convince an audience, too. A colossal failure in entertainment.

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Perhaps the only thing you’ll get out of Argylle is consistent laughs from the goofy little cat that’s packed around in a see-through backpack by the main character. Looking back, it makes sense that he, Alfie, was pretty much the center of marketing up to this point. Even when he’s uncannily recreated through poor CGI, there’s something calming about the random cutbacks to the cat’s reactions, meowing carelessly in intervals to distract from the atrocities wreaking havoc on your eyes in every alternative frame. If you must go and see Argylle, see it for Alfie; he may make it all worth your while.

Legitimately, aside from the comic relief cat, the film is pretty much listless. In an age of blockbusters with questionable creative motives being pumped out to the masses, year-by-year, Argylle is somehow worse than just about all of them. Pretty much a full waste of time, you’ll be safe to skip out on this one. Unless, of course, you’re a big, and I mean obsessive, cat person.

Argylle is now playing in cinemas worldwide

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